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Estacada in literature

Allred, Cody bond over fictionalizing town


by: CONTRIBUTED - Authors Stevan Allred and Robin Cody bonded over their respective fictionalizations of Estacada.How do you get on a writer’s good side?

You send him a really good letter. Make sure it’s exceptionally well written.

At least that’s what Stevan Allred did for Robin Cody.

Over coffee at Barbara’s Flowers and Coffee, the two authors speak of the letter as the start of their friendship.

But it was more than just a flair for the written word that brought the two together. They also had Estacada.

Cody is the son of Mary E. “Betty” Cody, a well-known, prolific collector of Estacada history and charter member of the Jacknife-Zion-Horseheaven Historical Society which runs Philip Foster Farm.

“Growing up here, I didn’t realize where we were in terms of American history, American literature... the frontier,” Cody said.

Cody remembers a sense of being “on the edge” in the Estacada of his childhood.

by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Allred and Cody talk about Estacada in literature over coffee. The two will be joined by Joanna Rose for the free public Estacada Area Arts Commission event: Writers Night, April 19 at the Springwater Grange.Roads weren’t paved, logging was the prevalent trade of the town and everyone had a sense of being the sons and daughters of pioneers.

The edge of civilization and the wild, Cody said, is what “Ricochet River” was all about.

Set in the 1960s in Calamus, a fictional version of Estacada, the novel follows Wade Curren, an athletic nice-guy viewed as a “feather in the cap of the community,” and his infuriatingly charismatic and reckless Native American pal, Jesse Howl.

Other major characters are Lorna, Wade’s exasperated but sweet girlfriend, the river itself and the salmon, whose life cycles have been interrupted by constructs of civilization.

Cody said the Jesse character was made possible by exaggerating a real-life friend.

When he was growing up in Estacada, Cody explained, it was thought that it would benefit Native American children to be assimilated into white American culture.

It was not terribly uncommon for Native American children to be fostered by white families. Cody himself attended school with many such children.

When looking back on the friendship that inspired Jesse Howl, Cody said that the two young men had had very similar gifts, but polar opposite societal expectations.

“I lived up to expectations of parents, coaches and (he) lived down to the expectations... that’s the core sadness of “Ricochet River,” Cody said.

Cody’s real life friend’s

life took a different path than Jesse’s.

By the time Cody graduated from college, his pal was an overweight drunk making his way as a golf hustler. He quit drinking and is now thriving as a healer.

Allred is a big fan of “Ricochet River.”

The book struck a chord with him a good 10 years before he began to fictionalize Estacada in his own writings.

Years later, when Cody left a copy of the book behind during a joint author reading with Allred, Allred grabbed the book intending to return it after he had a chance to read the book again with the author’s own notes in the margins.

But he got too swept up in the story all over again to pause for the notes.

Allred said he was impressed by the clean prose, vivid characters and the bravery of the story.

“It really evokes the place,” he said.

A compliment Cody was quick to return for Allred’s “A Simplified Map of the Real World,” a collection of interwoven short stories that explore Renata (a fictionalized town based on Estacada) through the lens of different characters, styles and times.

Allred moved to Estacada in 1996. By then, the town had undergone major changes from the place immortalized in “Ricochet River.”

“This town just about died in the ‘80s when the spotted owl, that whole thing, shut the woods down,” Allred said.

When Allred moved to Estacada, the town was starting to come back but with a new dynamic: the arts community.

The frontier mentality of Cody’s Calamus was still present, but it had shifted.

by:  ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Allred may have immortalized a fictional version of Estacada in 'A Simplified Map of the Real World,' but the town also has immortalized him. Allred stands by a portrait of himself in Joe Cotter's 'All the World's A Stage' Artback Mural painted on the Hi-School Pharmacy wall.“There’s plenty of Estacadans who pride themselves on not having been to Portland in decades,” Allred admitted, but what with the Internet, things have changed.

“I think it may take more of a mental effort to turn away from the world outside,” Allred said. “So you get this funny mixture.”

That “funny mixture” is exemplified in Allred’s character Mike Volpe, an old-school Renata farmer with a flat screen television so big, his neighbor can watch it from next door with binoculars.

As the authors get to the bottom of their cups of coffee, the conversation turns to Broadway Street and the city’s plans for its improvement.

Estacada, it seems, is in for another change.

But it will remain the same place Allred and Cody know and love.

“This town has been rebuilt a number of times,” Allred said. “Buildings come and go.”

Improvements won’t change the river and the woods, Cody said. And efforts are being made to improve salmon habitat.

“The core of things I care about will survive,” Cody said.

Long before questions were exhausted about “Ricochet River” and “A Simplified Map of the Real World,” Allred had to catch a plane.

The two will pick up the conversation of their work again during Writer’s Night, a free Estacada Area Arts Commission event at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 19, at Springwater Grange, 14951 S. Springwater Road.

Allred and Cody will be joined by Joanna Rose, whose story “A Good Crack and Break” will be published in the anthology “The Night, and the Rain, and the River” by Forest Avenue Press in May.

The entire audience is invited to Allred’s home for a reception following the reading.




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