Corral–Spotlight

Stories behind a Little-Known Place

Story and Photos by Charlene Aycock

The first time I stopped in the very small town of Corral, on the Camas Prairie off Highway 20 near Fairfield, was in September of 2003, to take a picture of what I thought was a historic church. This white building, which has a lot of character and looks great against a deep blue sky, is a favorite among photographers. I have since revisited Corral many times to photograph the very western red store, the old schoolhouse (which I had thought was a church), the grain elevators, the former train depot (now a home), and various barns, outhouses, and residences. Seeking more information on the town, I searched online, but found no details at all—no history, no population, nothing. All I knew of the place was its name.

In August of 2012, when the Trinity Ridge Wildfire in the mountains near Corral caused a lot of smoke in the valley, I decided to drive up the highway to see what I could capture under the smoky skies, which I knew can become a natural filter of harsh light, creating special opportunities. Noticing the sky had turned pink, I headed east toward Corral to take pictures of the school. Light changes rapidly with conditions and the sun’s movement, and I was fortunate to get the shot I wanted, with the pink sky in the background. The image became popular, prompting Debbie Wilson, the granddaughter-in-law of the building’s current owner, to contact me about buying prints. She also told me about the origins of the school and asked if I would be interested in meeting the current owners. I said I would love to meet them, as I very much wanted to learn more about the schoolhouse and the town.

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