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Pendleton Mills blanket loom.


Pendleton: Blankets, Bull Riders and History Rewritten

Our first glimpse of downtown Pendleton was uninspiring. It seemed dreary, listless and gritty … like a town that had partied too hard and had a hangover. Our negative impression was verified when we discovered that the annual Pendleton Roundup had occurred several weeks earlier. No doubt about it, Pendleton is an authentic cowboy town. We knew it was the real McCoy when, while standing at the local supermarket check out, we noticed magazines entitled Bull Riding and Cowboy and Horse.

Danny has always been a big Pendleton shirt fan ... dating back to his high school days in the mid-60s. So it was with great anticipation we visited the Pendleton Mills for a tour. The tour turned out to be perfunctory and only somewhat interesting. Because it is so noisy in the mill, we had to wear headphones to hear the tour guide. This mill does just the weaving of blankets. From here, the blankets are shipped to another plant for finishing. With the newer computer chips, the looms produce a blanket every ten minutes. All women's clothing is manufactured in Nebraska with most of the assemblage outsourced to Mexico and Taiwan.

Pallets of dyed wool thread. We called them "raw blankets."


The only reason we would return to Pendleton would be to revisit the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute located on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The primary purpose of the museum is to explain the history of the western expansion from the Native American point of view (Tamastslikt means instructor). The exhibits are dramatic, professionally presented and include items not often seen ... such as children's toys, a tule mat winter lodge, games, and the elaborate adornments made for their beloved horses.


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