A place where people do the right thing, just because

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer October 19, 2012 02:41 pm
Blustering wind blew through the Main Street of Cove. Leaves, pine needles and dollar bills tumbled in its wake.

A woman grabbed the bills as they blew by with the nimbleness of a Detroit Tigers second baseman. She hurried to catch up to the fans from Sherman County whose football team had just played Adrian on the Cove field.

The fans were delighted but not surprised. This is, after all, small town Eastern Oregon, where honesty is as normal as horseback riders going through the cafe
drive-through.

The boy came into a La Grande gas station/convenience store to buy candy.

When he handed the man behind the counter a pocket full of change, the clerk said, “Whoa, there. Young man, you really want to hold on to this coin. It’s a keepsake, a 1952 Ben Franklin half dollar, and it’s worth a lot more than this candy.”

The clerk was right. According to cointrackers.com, the coin is worth a minimum of $10 and in perfect condition $75.

Even in small town Eastern Oregon, that the clerk did not pocket the coin was amazing.

Maybe it is the heady scent of sagebrush and pine. Maybe it is the inspiration of Border collie grins and faithful old dogs. Maybe it is the aw-shucks atmosphere.

Whatever the inspiration, people here tend to play by the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Sure, we have our share of domestic violence where people are bruised as much as the landscape is bruised by the setting sun. We have drugs. We have car prowling. We have neighbors at odds with neighbors and roosters that crow at all hours of the day.

It’s not perfect by any means.

The good, bad, ugly

We can look for the bad  in life. The nasty. The ugly. The mean. Or we can look for the good. We can be pessimistic. Or we can be optimistic. We can see the glass as half full. Or half empty and leaking like a sieve. Our choice.

I prefer to be optimistic. Regardless of layoffs, pay freezes, days off without pay and the cost of living rising inexorably, we have much to be thankful for. Employment. Health. A roof over our head. Three square meals a day. 

A brain that acts like a dessert carousel in a restaurant in that it contains lots of useful information but we can only see part of it at any one time. We know the knowledge is there. We just have to wait for the carousel to come around to where we can access it again.

We can be thankful for the deafening silence that helps us preserve our hearing in this increasingly noisy world.

For the cherry orchards dappled with sunlight.

For big sky country.

For dust devils and dramatic hillscapes.

For the mourning dove’s call.

For mule deer lawn ornaments.

For extremely remote places that even a four-wheel-drive can’t reach.

For the freedom of the hills and crisp nights that bring us dazzling fall color.

For obscure demographic cubbyholes where people still do the right thing, just because.