Ersel & Mary Ann Osborne
"Oldies but Goodies" by Joni Stewart

As a visitor, there are few things more comforting than finding one's host in a relaxed and expansive mood. Particularly if you have called the day before to invite yourself over. And especially when you have never even been introduced. Putting this column together requires, at times, that I do just that. So you can imagine my delight as Ersel and Mary Ann Osborne of Mt. Vernon entertained me with stories and recollections. They even divulged a location for great huckleberry-ing!

Ersel's history in these parts begins when members of his dad's family homesteaded in Wheeler County during the late 1880's. Ersel was born outside of Mitchell on a sheep and cattle ranch. His earliest recollection: Fishing. "I must have been about three or four when I caught my first fish," says Ersel. "I remember the date, the 14th of November; I remember well, because while out fishing that day, my sister was born." He went to Mountain Creek school and then finished up at Mitchell.

Mary Ann was raised in Libby, Montana as Mary Ann Blanchard. Her childhood was spent on a ranch/farm atmosphere with horses, pigs, chickens, etc. Her stepdad moved the family to Prineville in 1949 and then on to Mitchell to work at Hudspeth.

Ersel worked at Hudspeth too, and by summer of '52 the two had met and married. This August 30th will be their 43rd wedding anniversary.

Ersel and Mary Ann raised three children, a boy, Walt, and two girls, Evelyn and Patti. They moved to Mt. Vernon in 1959 where their children attended and were graduated from Mt. Vernon High School.

Ersel continued working at the old mill in John Day as a millwright until he retired in '86 with lung cancer. "You do a lot of thinking when you're in the hospital, and you realize it might be that your number is up," says Ersel. He is experiencing a new lease on life, due in part to that revelation and to the clean bills of health he has received for the past five years.

Mary Ann found work cooking for the senior center from 1979-1989, and back when the KJDY building housed dorms for 4-H boarders, Mary Ann would cook for those kids. She has since had five strokes, so, as disabling as strokes can be, she is grateful for the mobility and speech function which were unaffected. "I can still get around on level ground," she says. And let me be the first to tell you, the strokes have not affected her sense of humor or enthusiasm!

Their love of the woods is contagious, and they speak of the bounty the land holds. "Ersel's father refers to the morrel and bolete mushrooms as "wood-fish" and Ersel just loves to fish," says Mary Ann. In truth, Ersel does hunt for mushrooms and is very successful. Their favoite way to prepare them is to flour and pan fry them - just like fish!

As the reigning Grand Marshals for the Cinnabar Rendezvous, they are looking forward to riding in the parade again this year, and seeing the 1995 Grant Marshal(s) honored during the Memorial Day weekend celebration.

Writing this column, I have developed a true appreciation for folks who are "at home with themselves," and Ersel and Mary Ann Osborne are comfortable inside and out.

1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved

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