camp polk cemetery
Named after a long since abandoned army post, unwatered and wild, Camp Polk Cemetery is a quintessential, homegrown backwoods Oregon experience. Though pretty much untended, it’s still in use. If nothing else, it’s romantic. There’s a good collection of hand carved and hand-poured markers here, and one is confident that many markers have long since disappeared. A perennial favorite is that of Robert Krug (1849-1919): “Murdered by A. J. Weston” (reputedly for his “valuables"). The cad!

Some plots are sectioned off with chain and some are surrounded by wrought iron fencing, and none is laid out in accord with anything else. It’s a free-for-all.

Kim Stafford, perceptive observer of Oregon life and director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis and Clark College, some time back made a project of locating several pioneer cemeteries in eastern Oregon, of which Camp Polk was one. He evoked his experience in an essay entitled “December Meditation at Camp Polk Cemetery.” The following excerpt gives, not only a flavor of Camp Polk, but that of a cemetery dog, as well:

"Religion in the desert has a lot to do with patience, and patience has a lot to do with silence. Beyond my feet where I lie at Camp Polk, there is a stone with an infant’s oval ceramic photograph fixed to the pedestal. Someone sometime has used it for target practice, and the gray paint of the bullet shies away low and to the left. There are so many children, and they are all so silent they are a chorus. The desert is big enough to hold that wind.

"At Ashwood in that ten years back I heard a wind coming. All was still where I crouched, but I heard that wind. Hot. There was a permanence to every stone crumb and weed-stalk in the little enclosure of wire where I stood up. About a quarter mile away, a single tree was moving. The others were still. I folded my map and put it away. Then the little whirlwind moved down the hill into another tree and left the first tree alone. There was a weight to the afternoon. Then all the trees were still and the wind was a slender spiral of dust coming down toward me.

"Even under the snow I can see the varieties of hope at Camp Polk: the ring of stone, the chain perimeter, the lichen-shredded picket fence, concrete moat, rusted cast-iron rail around a rich man’s plot. In the sweep of open desert ground, the grave’s plot is a pouch, a box, a small fenced span of certainty. That’s all. That’s enough. It’s nearly dark."

Directions:

Road to the cemetery is 3 1/2 miles up Camp Polk Rd. from the NE corner of Sisters. There is a sign.
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