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The Wild, Wild East: Of pork chops, pies and pronghorn in Hampton 

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There was a time, way back in the '40s and '50s when Hampton Station was a regular stop for the Trailways buses going between Bend and Burns. Today, people go whizzing by without hardly giving the place a glance - me included...

But the other day, my wife, Sue, and I stopped at Hampton Station with my son, Dean, who just returned from a year serving with the NATO in Afghanistan. Sue wanted to use the restroom while Dean was getting his back-home-in-Central-Oregon fix, and he had a yen for something home-cooked to snack on.

I was waiting in the back of our old '72 Chevy Suburban we use as a workhorse when we're doing wildlife studies in tough-to-get-to places. "Hey, Pop," Dean said, as he opened the back door of the Chevy, "Try this homemade apple turnover." I did and it was deee-licious!

"They're cooking up stuffed pork chops," Sue said, "what do you say we stop here for supper on our way home?" Now, that was saying something, as she's almost a vegetarian.

That evening, just before closing time, we pulled up to the inviting cafe, hungry and tired after a full day of searching the rim rocks and old junipers for golden eagle nests. (Sue and I are working on a two-year study for Frank Isaacs of the Oregon Eagle Foundation who is trying to get a handle on how many goldens there are in Oregon.)

Walking into the cafe is a pleasant experience, especially when you meet the lovely lady who runs the place, Rebecca Miles. She's just the kind of woman you'd expect to meet in the middle of the Great (cold) Sandy Desert. A good-lookin', friendly, and easy goin' young lady wanting you to relax and have a good meal at her establishment.

Then you'll meet Katherine, her daughter, and waitress-in-training. What a talented kid! She's 12 years old (going on 20), sews dresses and clothing that are something to behold, makes doll clothing that'll knock your eye out, and has a smile you can see a mile away.

All the delicious homemade vittles come from Bob Erb, a bearded giant in the kitchen who is the biggest surprise. He's not just a cook - he's an exceptional chef, a person of significant talents. The Hot Top Salad that my wife Sue had was, in her words, "excellent, and there was plenty of it."

The stuffed pork chops that Rebecca and Katherine set down in front of Dean and me were just what we needed to end a perfect day. The portions were so generous that we took home enough for lunch the next day. And thinking back on the home-made cinnamon rolls we had for dessert makes my mouth water all over again.

I was curious about Hampton, so when I got home I opened Lewis A, and Lewis L. McArthur's tome, Oregon Geographic Names (of which I have a signed copy from 2003).

Hampton was named for a group of outstanding volcanic hills north of the highway, which in turn were named for Joe Hampton who moved to the area from Eugene in the 1870s. A post office was established in 1911 and closed in 1953.

In addition to the delicious, home-made food at Hampton Station, the trip to and from Bend and on to Burns is also a wonderful wildlife tour. You'll see ferruginous, red-tailed and Swainson's hawks perched on the crossbars on the power poles, along with prairie falcons, golden eagles, and - surprise of all surprises! - adult bald eagles, either in the hay fields or on a power pole just before you get to Cougar Butte, east of Brothers. Pronghorn (antelope), mule deer and an occasional Rocky Mountain elk can also be seen along highway 20. In fact, you want to keep a sharp eye out for raptors and mammals crossing the highway any time of day of night.

At the Brothers Oasis you will see one of the most unique wildlife viewing areas in the western United States! No kidding! There's a small colony of Belding's ground squirrels happily living near the picnic tables that no one is trying to shoot, poison or otherwise kill. No tables set up with rifle-bearing shooters sighting in on the hapless rodents, known to most who kill them as "Sage Rats." They have been left in peace...

By now, you've got the point of my bragging up the Hampton Station Experience. If, from Tuesday through Saturday you're headed for Burns and other points east (or on the way back), take your foot off the throttle and stop at the Hampton Station for a grand, homemade meal. Chef Bob Erb says it all, "If you're going to do it, do it right; it'll all come out better in the end."

And keep an eye out for the wildlife!


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