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A glimpse of days gone by

Steve Lent recently released this third book in the Images of American series titled Crook County


by: RON HALVORSON - Steve Lent displays his latest book, 'Crook County.'

Whether you’re a local history buff, someone new to Prineville seeking a glimpse into the county’s past, or even if you just enjoy perusing timeworn photographs, Steve Lent’s newest book, “Crook County,” is a must-have.

Lent, who serves as the assistant director of the Bowman Museum, is a prolific writer of all things historical. Along with books documenting county place names (Crook, Jefferson, and soon Deschutes), he’s written more than 600 historically-themed columns for the Central Oregonian.

Crook County is Lent’s third book in the Images of America series, following his Prineville and Madras volumes. As with other books in this series published by Arcadia Publishing Co., all but nine of its 128 pages are chock-full of quality, and often rare, photographs — in this case gleaned from the archives of the Bowman Museum, or from privately-held collections. Each of the more than 250 images is accompanied by a concise description of what is depicted.

“One of the biggest challenges,” said Lent, “was choosing which photographs to include.”

“I had almost 800 that I selected that I could choose from, so I had to narrow it down. You can't put everything in there. Whatever happened to fit the topics determined what they were.”

The book is divided into chapters (topics), such as “Exploration and Early Settlement,” and “Communities and Post Offices.” By organizing the photographs by topic, the reader is led in a logical, somewhat chronological progression from images of early explorers and Native Americans to events that occurred in the mid-20th Century.

“It gives a good opportunity for people to view pictures that are in our archives, but (otherwise) they'd have to go through hundreds and hundreds of pictures to see them,” he said. “It covers a pretty good cross-section of early day settlers and events.”

It also provided Lent another opportunity to use some of the estimated 7,000 historical images he's scanned into his computer over the years.

“Whenever somebody comes in with pictures, I just really get excited,” he admitted.

The book contains several of Lent's favorite photographs, including the cover photo, a circa 1900 photograph from page 99, showing a huge load of logs secured on an ox-drawn wagon, ready for transport.

“Can you imagine getting those logs on top of that?” he marveled. He explained - and adjacent photos in the book illustrate - that the logs were placed on a hill, and with gravity and poles, were rolled down and onto the wagon. The poles were repositioned with each successive layer.

Also fascinating is an image of a homestead flanked by a number of water barrels, indicating the family had to haul its domestic water.

“I don't know how those guys survived on those homesteads,” he said. “Well, they didn't, because most of them turned them back (to the federal government).”

Thus far, the book has been well-received, Lent said. Co-worker Eloise Brummer proofread it for him, and said she's pretty excited about it - so much so that she purchased the first of a handful of pre-release copies.

“I think it's wonderful,” she said. “I couldn't believe the clarity of the pictures. There's one picture of a whole group, 25 or 30, people in a cluster at a picnic in 1907, in the Post country, and you can see features on their faces as plain as day. They did a great job.”

A native of Prineville who earned a degree in history from the University of Oregon, Lent said writing has always been a passion.

“Even from grade school I liked to write. I'd always write something. I developed a real interest in history from a teacher I had in high school - Jim Mulvahill. When I went into college I figured, well, I'll just go into that. But I spent 30-plus years in fire management (with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service). Now for the last 11 years I've actually put my history to pretty good work.”

He's delighted with his finished work, and thinks it will sell as well as the earlier Prineville book.

“I'm pretty pleased with how the book turned out,” he said. “It's always exciting to see people look through them, recognizing something, and 'Wow! I didn't know that was here.' I think people will like this one.”

Lent, who said this was more a labor of love than anything, couldn't hide his sense of completion.

“I'm always glad when I'm done with them. This one was all done at home. It eats up a lot of your time.”




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