By Kathleen Ellyn
Wallowa County Chieftain
Up on Dreamz Road, off to the left before you cross the bridge over the Grande Rhonde River between Enterprise and Clarkston, Wash., Bill and Ferrel Vail have just returned from a trip to Lewiston.
Bill has made his way slowly into the couple’s doublewide trailer, feeling for the support handles a friend recently installed throughout the house to help him maintain his independence.
Ferrel Vail is opening a new bag of catfood on the porch to feed the plush, outdoor cat. She and Bill have just completed an exhausting day of chasing down insurance details in the aftermath of a fire that destroy their café, Boggan’s Oasis, Nov. 18. More appointments are set for the next day.
When it’s all said and done, the Vails may rebuild.
That’s fabulous news for three generations of customers, many of whom have been mailing and calling the couple since the news of the fire spread.
“It was such a special spot for them. Everybody thought it was just a special place,” Ferrel said.
But what will it mean to Bill and Ferrel Vail, who in their early 80s and were planning to retire to Palm Springs?
“We don’t know, yet,” said Bill. “It depends on a lot of things. But that’s going to be our first choice.”
Bill and Ferrel are experienced business people, with backgrounds in business ownership stretching back to their youth in Anchorage, Alaska. As they matured into septuagenarians, they continued to manage Boggan’s by employing managers to do the “heavy lifting.”
Much of their kitchen and wait staff hails from Anatone, Wash., a tiny hamlet 13 miles up the road. One seasonal worker comes all the way from Pomroy, Wash., staying in a camp trailer during season.
“A lot of our employees have been here quite a while,” said Farrel.
The cabins, trailer parking and campsites up on the little hill above the property are filled through the summer with campers, outfitters, anglers and photographers. Flocks of bicyclists and motorcyclists have discovered Boggan’s and meet there, and many go home and write about their trip.
“The word of mouth keeps spreading,” Ferrel said.
Boggan’s Oasis can be expected to continue to be a going and growing concern, the Vails said.
If they rebuild, it will be a different Boggan’s. The historic photos and artifacts that graced the walls of the old café are ashes. But the spirit of the place and the joy of marking a trip through the twisty and dramatic landscape of Rattlesnake Grade with a stop at Boggan’s Oasis would remain.
Some of the many rural friends of the Vails figure that locals, outfitters, ranchers and vacationers may contribute photos and other items to help recreate the original ambiance.
The cause of the fire has not been determined, though the Vails themselves suspect it will be something to do with older portions of the electrical wiring. The cafe has been remodeled twice, but some of the wiring was still old, Bill said