So, I traveled to Eastern Oregon to cover the fascinating Salt Lick Auction, an event where salt blocks that have been crafted into art by animal artists are judged, auctioned, and sold – with the funds going for Parkinson’s Research. While on my quest to cover the Salt Lick Auction, I got the chance to meet up with a few real live salt lick artists at Beth and Fred Phillip’s ranch.
Timothy Bishop, Director of Marketing for Baker City Toursim took me to meet up with the Phillips to go see the aspiring artists. The Phillips had just finished bringing cows down from the mountains. I learned while in Oregon that herds are free to roam in areas in the mountains and that the cows can be spied on mountain roadways, thus the signs saying “Open range”.
The artists that the Phillips so kindly allowed me to view were new mom’s and they stay on the irrigated pastures that first calving year. “They are still filling out themselves and need good grass,” Beth added.
“We have been involved with this since he beginning,” Fred Phillips said about the Salt Lick Auction.
Whit Deschner, the founder of the auction is a much liked man in these parts. “Whit is fascinating. He has traveled most of the rivers around the world. Somewhere along the way he got Parkinson’s,” Fred said.
What started as a joke has become a serious event, raising over the last ten years a whopping $70,000 for Parkinson’s research.
The Phillips enjoy contributing a salt lick block or three to the event. This year Beth said that their 3-year-old grandson had the honor of naming the entries.
Fred Phillips is s 4thgeneration rancher and Beth moved to the area when she was nine. “We raised Angus in lots of places, then we came here. Dad wanted to go west and Baker County is great for raising cattle.”
For the Phillips, raising cattle is a family operation. They farm with their two sons.
As for the artists, they were not very impressed with our visit. They just looked us over, and if the truth be known, I think they found us lacking. They however, were quite impressive in their Black Angus glory with their glowing coats and their artist talents that they let us view guardedly.
They are winning artists though. “We have won something in different categories,” Beth said. “One year we won in the Michael J. Fox look alike contest and one in the Richard Nixon look alike contest too.”
What more could I add?
Note: Transportation and accommodations for this trip were provided.