I’m glad we live where we do. Many of the things we have done here, acquiring land, building a home, becoming a part of our community, have been accomplished with the least amount of paperwork and the greatest amount of handshaking, so to speak.
More than once, in a town thirty miles away, I’ve been told that identification wasn’t necessary to write a check, since it was on our local bank, and we were residents of the county. That was all the surety necessary.
That’s changing, of course, as it is everywhere. Being from a small, isolated and homogenous community does not have the honor it once had, I think. The universalization of information, communication and trade has made us all one, perhaps, but not better.
There was a time when your name, your town, your country stood for something solid and real. It may not have always been good, or even strong, but it stood. If you came from a place like ours, you were automatically considered upright and worthy. In the same way, of course, if you were of a particular background, you were considered less than desirable in many places. I’m glad that’s not true (as much) anymore. It still happens, is happening with greater frequency in some other countries, but (despite what you see on television) more people reject such labels or "profiles."
The subject of living here came up just the other day when a reporter for the local weekly called. Her editor had assigned her to write about why those of us who have come from beyond have stayed on. This is a destination county, and over the years we have met and then said goodbye to people who moved in, built new or bought old, and then after a few years, moved on. Some of us, however, came and put down new roots and stayed. Why?
Though we have lived in big cities, worked in foreign lands, traveled over much of our own country, this remote and sometimes difficult place we call home is just that: home. More so than any other place we’ve lived, including the places of our growing up. Now, having lived here for nearly a quarter of a century, we can’t imagine any other place we’d be comfortable, be at home.
Part of it is people. We have friends who have grown up here, friends who came as we have, from big cities, even found links to some of the early settlers though neither of us had ever heard of those connections. But that isn’t what has kept us here. The word that comes to mind is "acceptance." We have been involved in the life of the county since we settled here. In a place with just about two-thousand residents, every soul is valued, every pair of hands has work to do. Much of what gets done is by volunteers, just as much of what is done to help our neighbors. The firefighters and emergency medical folks are volunteers, as are some of the people who help out at the school, or help run our community health center. There are 4-H and Future Farmers for young people, and service clubs for the grown-ups. We are part of the life of our community because without us there would be no community. And that is a large part of what keeps us here.
There is more to the story, though: privacy. If you want to be alone, want to do what you do and not have to explain yourself, well we appreciate that, too. Not mean things, not destructive, against-the-law things. There is little tolerance for that here. We appreciate privacy, protect it, and most of us are prepared to defend it if need be, but we aren’t paranoid by any means. We do understand, though, that what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine. We let the bears cross the yard, tolerate the deer eating the garden or the succulent plants that grow by the door, but we are also ready to stop two or four legged adventurers who get too close, take too much advantage of our good nature. That’s what it means to be neighborly in a place as small as this.
It comes down to this: we live life on a human scale here. The tallest things are the trees, the lowest are the rivers. It can be an easy place to put down roots, but a hard place to keep them healthy. It is not an easy place to live. We depend on each other, on our neighbors and friends. Yes, the local highway department will plow your road after the snow has stopped, but your neighbor is more likely to get to your driveway first (or you to his) with a tractor or pickup equipped to move snow. We take care of each other, we check up to make sure our neighbors are okay, we offer to drive those who can’t, we take food to homes facing a family loss, we drive across the mountains to area hospitals to visit neighbors, we are part of the lives of our friends, neighbors, distant relatives and we welcome those who want to be a part of these mountains and valleys we call home. It can be difficult, to be sure, but it is also better than any other way of life we can imagine. You just have to want it.
If you’re over 18, you don’t live here by accident.