November 16, 1966
By Marjorie O'Harra
A MOUNTAIN MAN LIKES BEING LONER, LEARNS TO TYPE
AS MEANS OF WRITING LOCAL HISTORY
ASHLAND (Special) -- My Uncle John was a mountain man, George Wright said as he leaned back in the crook of the age-silvered log and looked out across the mountain meadow. He lived up here because he liked to be alone. My folks moved down on the Klamath River when I was seven to send us kids to school, but every chance I'd get I'd run up here to live with Uncle John. I have lived here most of the time since I was 14.
Wright, who is 69, lives at Cold Springs Flat on the Green Springs mountain area some 30 miles east of Ashland, on land his father settled on in 1881. And, as his Uncle John, he lives here--four rough miles off the Copco Road--because he likes to be alone.
Although he chooses to view the world from a bit of a distance, Wright is intensely interested in what is going on. He keeps current with the news of the day by listening to his battery radio and he is an inveterate reader.
He has never missed voting in an election although he has to walk or ride horseback eight or nine miles over rugged mountain country to his precinct polls at Lincoln.
As a young man, Wright was a cowpuncher--a buckaroo. He would work out as a range rider but always return to his homestead on Cold Springs Flat, along Skookum Gulch. And then I got to be an old timer, he said, and people kept telling me I ought to write--put some of the stuff I know down on paper. About 1952 history started to take a boom and I began to write for a pastime. I wrote about horses and wildlife and nature and name places, about the things I knew. I'm working on a book now.
Wright, who admits to very little formal education, was given a typewriter a few years ago and started to use it. It wasn't hard, he said. I just read the directions.
Local historians regard him a good source of information and he has prepared several hundred articles and given them to the Jacksonville Museum.
Wright keeps a few chickens, a black and white cat and two black horses. He rides a horse to the home of his nearest neighbors, three miles away, several times a month to pick up his mail and the few groceries they bring him from town. Unless the horses are sleeping, he admits with a grin. Then I walk and pack in my groceries. I like to walk, I have walked all over these hills. I guess I probably walk five or six miles every day for exercise. Wright said his horse, 29-year-old Delano (named after Franklin D.), often stands with his head, neck and front shoulders inside the house, to keep him company while he brews up a stew on the big old iron cookstove in the kitchen.
Wright has a lot of history to record and he does much of it at night by the light of a kerosene lamp. He also does a lot of his walking at night, when the world is still.
From my ranch home on Skookum Gulch I often look out over some of the once free and open range, where long ago riders were not hampered by fences, he said. My range riding days are over but my old saddle and six-gun remind me of the early days and of the old comrades who have seen the last round-up and have moved away and scattered like the ashes of my old campfires.
One of Wright's favorite stories is about his Uncle William, the tough pioneer rancher and frontiersman who, together with Purl Bean, is credited with the killing of Old Reelfoot, a great bear that roamed Northern California and Southern Oregon for some 20 years. He has put his gun, a Spencer 56-46 rifle used in the Civil War, in a private collection.
Another favorite story of his is about the three cattle rustlers hanged to some trees Aa couple of hundred yards or so north of the upper licks, where ranchers would drive their cattle and cut them out for different owners.
They were left hanging to the trees, he said. My uncle William told me that when he started to ride the range in 1866 the bones of the three rustlers were still there, with pieces of their clothes and ropes they were hanged with. Those three had a corral along a creek farther north, which in later years caused the creek to be called Corral Creek, a name well known to this day but probably few know how it got its name. This is what I've got to get down on paper.
Wright does not expect company in the winter except for one friend, Mark Lawrence, Medford Bureau of Land Management man, who hikes in bringing reading material and Christmas presents, but in the summer, visitors are not uncommon, especially rockhounds. Artifact hunters also come to Cold Springs Flat known as an Indian campground white men came. Whether visitors come or not doesn't matter much to George Wright, however, because he is capable of living off the land, and, like his Uncle John, he lives alone as a mountain man because he likes it.