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Donna Landon and Marshall McComb

Donna: “We were living in Oakland, California when we moved to Oregon in 2000. It was a high crime area and our house had been broken into at least nine times. I was very tired of living in that city and wanted to live in the country somewhere. Marshall was getting ready to retire from his job in San Francisco. A friend approached us and said, ‘Do you know anyone who wants to be a land steward on 1000 acres on the Snake River in Oregon?’ And we said, ‘What? Tell us more!’ We meditated on it and asked for guidance from a higher power.”

Marshall: “One thing that’s important to me is the way we were always guided. The first time we went down this 16 mile dirt road out of Huntington to get to the place, we couldn’t find it. We had the wrong address. And we didn’t know enough about the territory to know where Fox Creek was, so we kind of gave up.”

Donna: “We drove up and down, up and down, and finally decided to stay in a motel in Farewell Bend overnight and then we were gonna just go home the next morning. But in the morning. I said, ‘Well, I’m going to go look for it again.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m feeling rested up, I’ll go with you.’ So we went to this bar in Huntington at 9:00 in the morning. All these cars were parked there in front of the bar, so I poked my head in and said, ‘Does anybody know where Fox Creek is?’ And they all piped up and said, ‘Oh yeah, it’s exactly 16 miles down that road.’ So we drove there and found it.”

Marshall: “As we walked up the canyon, I had a vision, not the only vision I’ve ever had, but this was a big one. I heard an inner voice say, ‘There’s something very good for you here.’ We had no idea what we were doing, but after some discussion, we moved there and wound up being land stewards there for 12 years.”

Donna: “We both lived on the Fox Creek property from 2000 to 2005. It was very isolated. We couldn’t get cell service and there was no radio or television. We’d go into town once a week to buy groceries and take care of all our business. The house was in terrible shape, but we weren’t paying anything for rent. Finally, we decided to invest in our own house. I took my little Scamp trailer and drove all around the back roads. I looked at all these small towns and came home and told Marshall, ‘I don’t see anything better than Baker.’ We looked in Baker for quite a while, and then I saw this old house. It was for sale by owner. I knocked on the door and asked if I could take a quick look around. The lady said, ‘Oh no, it’s not cleaned up!’ Her whole family was there on Sunday morning eating pancakes. But I said, ‘I just want to see what the floor plan is.’ She let me look around and I knew Marshall was going to like this house.”

Marshall: “A year or two before then, we had been driving around Baker and we came down Grove Street and saw this mass of sunflowers. We stopped and took a picture and I was really intrigued by the house because of the sunflowers, which was a big theme at Fox Creek. Lots of sunflowers out there. So it turns out that the house that was for sale was the very same house I had taken a photo of a couple of years before. And we ended up buying it. I really believe there are no such things as coincidences… We later learned it was the wagon-maker’s house, built in 1890.”

Donna: “I had asked the Seven Generations Land Trust people what was involved in being a land steward, and they said, ‘We just want you to love the land. We just want somebody who will love the land.’”

Marshall: “The Fox Creek land was really quite an impressive bit of property. It’s in a canyon. We had cows from the surrounding cattle ranch in our canyon and we had acres of Scotch thistle which is a wicked weed. There were basically two projects. One was to get rid of the weeds which we thought would be easy. Ha! The other project was to try to get something to keep the cattle out rather than just chasing them down the canyon. So we worked on getting grants from about five different agencies so we could put in seven miles of fencing. We were able to work closely with the foreman at the cattle ranch on this. In fact, we became good friends with him and his wife.”

“Needless to say, being a land steward was not simple. I think the main point was developing trust in our higher powers to see us through. Otherwise, I don’t know how we would have accomplished what we did out there. We were able to fence the property and take care of most of the weeds and we investigated various other possible uses of the land.”

“Another thing we did during this time was political activism and writing letters to the editor and doing that kind of thing. We put a lot of energy and effort into trying to make the world better. I’m still concerned about the amount of poverty around and how we just absolutely need to do something big and bold to solve that problem, such as a universal basic income. In fact, I’m working on another letter to the editor right now. But sometimes it feels like problems really don’t get solved and I’m kind of burned out. We’ve got a saying that even the bad news is good news. And what that means to me is, if we’re not going to solve these problems face to face or with a totalitarian mindset, why don’t we turn to the spiritual side of life?”

Donna: “Basically the only place where we are all one is on the spiritual level. We can’t really connect any other way. That’s what we’re realizing, that the only place to really connect with people is on the spiritual level through love. And so whatever we can do in the world that involves love with as many people as possible, the more effect it’s gonna have.”