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Dead Ox Flat: 1939

Dead Ox Flat: 1939

October 1939. "Mr. and Mrs. Wardlaw at entrance to their dugout basement home. Dead Ox Flat, Malheur County, Oregon." Medium-format nitrate negative by Dorothea Lange for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Oregon Origin

FYI, the real origin of the name "Oregon" is unknown. It's first known use was in 1765 - , quite some time before French Canadian Trappers were in the area to get the meaning from there.

There is some speculation that the word was gotten from Indians living around the mouth of the Columbia River during that time, but if so the tribe and their dialect were gone by the time Lewis and Clark showed up.

Little House In the Prairie

My father grew up in such a basement house in Indiana in the 1940s and 50s. He had 10 brothers and sisters, so 13 of them lived there. He left the day he turned 18.

Small world

As soon as I saw the caption of this picture I thought, "I wonder if my Internet friend Scott Wardlaw is related to them." And lo ...

Been there

My grandparents used to take my brother and me on road trips out into the Oregon desert in the '70s. Can't say I've seen this particular house, but I can say it's spectacular but forbidding land -- what a place to eke out a living in those days! I almost stepped on a rattlesnake curled up on the sunny front porch of a cabin we stayed in.

The rest of the story

This photo says so much with so little. More here in a comment from Noel Wardlaw.

The Dugout

The photo seems to show an albeit flimsy ground level building or buildings trailing off to the rear. Is there a reason that folks like them would prefer living underground vs fixing up those sheds as living space?

[The structure to the rear is the top of the dugout. Pit houses were at one time common in the West and Southwest. - Dave]

Glenn Wardlaw

In the photo in the comments, the boy at the table is the Wardlaw's son, Glenn. There is a 2006 photo of him here:

Optimism needed

To live in a place named like that ...

Dead Ox : no explanation needed there
Malheur : french word for misfortune or tragedy
Oregon : comes from the french word "ouragan" (hurricane)

Motel 6

I believe this humble home may have been the inspiration for the Motel 6 franchise. And as Mrs. Wardlaw used to say, "we'll leave the light on for you".

Previously on Shorpy ...

Also seen here and here. With an interesting note from Scott Wardlaw in the comments.

Waste not

I wonder what he did with the rest of the old tire behind the milk cans.

ps: Geezer- great minds and all that...I swear there were no comments up when I wrote that!

Waste not want not

Even that worn out tire has been cut up and used for something.
banderboy: I almost had an original thought.

Color Their World

This is one of those few old-timey pics that would look better in color.

It couldn't look worse.


This is an outstanding photograph. It shows the strength, cheerfulness, and determination of our ancesters that settled this country. Great it is that this photo was taken in 1939.

Doug Santo
Pasadena, CA


I guess it's true what they say: the longer you're married the more you start to look alike.

I'd give anything...

please tell me you have a photo of the inside of that thing!....Thanks Dave..Um, I hope you didn't take me seriously about the "I'd give anything" bit.

[Click here. - Dave]

White lightning

Note the whiskey jug with the cork in it. More appropriate in this context than, say, a case of Dom Perignon, right?

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