The nationally historic Siskiyou Smokejumper Base in the Illinois Valley will be the focus of the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s First Tuesdays Pub Talks in Medford on April 2. The Siskiyou base, about four miles south of Cave Junction, was one of the four original bases created in the United States in 1943. Before closing in the fall of 1981, it would house more than 400 smokejumpers, including a future astronaut, world-class mountain climber, rocket scientist, superior court judge and one man of the cloth.
The program will be presented by retired journalist Paul Fattig, whose book about the base will be published later this year. He grew up in the Illinois Valley and knew many of the Siskiyou jumpers. His book focuses on Allen “Mouse” Owen, who stood 4 feet 11 inches tall, making him the shortest smokejumper in the nation's history. He served three combat tours in Vietnam with the Marine Corps yet had to obtain a congressional waiver before becoming a smokejumper. He would loom large in the annals of smokejumping.