We stayed just one night in Prairie City in eastern Oregon, but the long drive there from west of Portland was well worth it. Kate, the check-in clerk at the historic Hotel Prairie, was waiting for us and a more enthusiastic and charming young woman it would be hard to find.
The word ‘city’ is a bit misleading as the community numbers 910 (but growing, according to the town’s website).
Was there somewhere to have some dinner? Kate recommended a place down the street but then came right back and said unfortunately it had already closed … but no problem, if we didn’t mind something simple. Hotel owner Donna Merrill rustled us up some drinks and delicious toasted sandwiches – they were on the point of doing food in their nicely fitted out dining room so we were a sort of test run – and put on a great DVD about the John Day Fossil Beds, which we were going to see the next day.
Donna and her partners bought the hotel in 2005, when it was 100 years old, and she has been project managing its restoration ever since. The pressed ceilings in the dining room and lobby are new but based on old patterns, while the wooden floor in the dining area has come from another part of the hotel and been carefully relaid to match the fir and pine timbers.
After dinner I had a stroll along Prairie City’s main street (Highway 26 but almost entirely devoid of traffic in the long evening), peering in shop windows and enjoying the rich light on the nearby Strawberry Mountains.
The guy at the gas station said he could live anywhere, “but I like living here”.
When I found a Little Free Library on the main street, I knew what to do. The next morning I added a copy of breath with the hope that at least one person in Prairie City will discover haiku – and maybe even try writing some about their home.