Recounting life in Sisters’ forest
Last updated 10/12/2022 at Noon
Buddy Blair, 66, works at Sno-Cap. He does food prep and maintenance. His wife, Adrian, 38, is the kitchen manager at the iconic eatery on Cascade Avenue. That’s where they met three years ago. They raise two children, 17 and 4, to whom Buddy is the step-father. They all live together in the forest.
Not by choice, by necessity.
It’s not important for the rest of us to know the circumstances that cause them to be forest dwellers. The bottom line is that they cannot afford to live in the community in which they each work. Two other Sno-Cap workers are also forest dwellers, as are as many as 300 others, depending on the season, according to housing advocates and an annual federally sponsored census.
Blair will be one of six panelists at the October 20 community forum “Houseless in Sisters,” sponsored by Citizens4Community and The Nugget Newspaper, which will be held at the Sisters Fire Hall Community Room at 301 S. Elm Street from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The public is invited to participate.
He is relaxed and even nonchalant about addressing the gathering. Buddy is not ashamed nor bitter about his family plight.
“It could happen to anybody,” he said.
You can’t help but notice Buddy’s prosthetic leg. He removes it to show just how proud of it he is.
“Brand new, four grand,” he said, holding it up. “Cancer when I was 16.”
No bitterness, no self-pity, just cold, hard reality. Its cost is covered by Medicare.
Blair lived in traditional housing, a single family home in Redmond, for 44 years with his previous wife. He’s known Sisters for his entire life, once having lived in The Pines, former Brooks Scanlon logging camp housing that consisted of railroad cars off their wheels.
Buddy is fastidious in his appearance and in the way he maintains his home, a trailer in the forest, south and west of town by a few miles. He gets agitated with some of his fellow forest dwellers — a minority — who are bad housekeepers, especially those who leave trash or debris around their sites.
“This is our home,” he says emphatically, “and I don’t want neighbors who trash it up.”
Other than living in the woods, his life is not exceptional.
“We go to work, take the kids to school, shop, just try and get by,” he said.
He’s working to rebuild his credit, and was able to buy a decent used car. He can’t imagine, though, ever being able to afford to rent here, where a one bedroom — if you can find one —is around $2,500 per month. Then there’s the security deposit and first and last month’s rent, the application fee, and it’s just not in reach even with both working. Add to that, they have a dog. But Buddy and Adrian are not ones to quit or give up on making it happen.
Adrian has been around Sisters for most of her life. Her parents were owners of the original Ski Inn before a giant ponderosa took it out.
Working at Sno-Cap is ideal, as their jobs give them some flexibility, especially Buddy, who, once he gets his tasks completed, is free to take on family chores. Elloey, 4, is in Montessori School and the older boy is at Youth-Build, learning a trade.
Buddy’s a plumber by trade, but now his specialty is the famous fry sauce at Sno-Cap, where he has figured out a way to streamline the making of it.
When asked if he could wave a magic wand and do something to make being houseless more bearable, he was instant in his response: “Longer shower hours.” He’s referring to the two public showers in Village Green, which are locked at 6 p.m. each night.
“Sometimes we don’t get off until 7 p.m. or we have school stuff, so we miss out,” Buddy related.
(Shower hours have reportedly been extended).
Their two-axle trailer is small, yet they all manage.
“We have a big yard,” Buddy said with a grin.
They also have a storage locker in town, where they have a few rooms of furnishings set aside for the day when they move out of the forest and into traditional housing.
“Houseless, homeless, forest dweller. Call it what you’d like. Sometimes I just think of myself as an Ewok,” he says with a wink, as he heads off to work.