Of Bluebird days and small town friends

October 24, 2012 01:55 pm
A few years ago Warner Canyon, Lake County’s gem of a ski area, got heaps and mounds of snow. I flew in for a weekend and spent a couple days with my best friend from high school exploring ski routes from our childhood.

What glorious, bluebird days they were and there was more snow than I could remember, except for maybe that one day when the same friend and I skipped fourth period to protest school hadn’t been closed.

There was a lot of “high talk” in Spanish class about ditching Chemistry to prepare for an afternoon of skiing. However. What I did not take into consideration was that the attendance secretary would come looking for us — even so far as to go to my mother’s classroom and ask her where I was.

We had grabbed our coats and jauntily waved at the ag and shop teachers as we left campus and made for my house. We brewed a pot of tea and giggled at our naughtiness.

Needless to say I was not allowed to skip school for the fresh powder as I’d intended. And it might not seem shocking that I never skipped class again.

It’s hard to get away with anything as a kid in a small town.

When I went to college my classmates asked if I was from Mayberry as I would refer to our town and county police officers by their first names and blink in wonder at the sort of antics they got into in Baltimore, Washington, or their suburbs — where a kid can be more anonymous.

Last week, a friend and I were discussing everything from presidential debates to local arts and politics. He said when he lived in an urban area he didn’t know as much about what was going on as he does here. We pondered the pros and cons of anonymity versus the fish bowl of a small town.

Skiing at Warner Canyon for the first time in over 20 years I ran into old friends.

One in particular and had lived in Lakeview his whole life except for a few years at Oregon State. A few days earlier, the first child born of our classmates had died. He had been mortally wounded in Iraq and died six months later.

I asked, “Why does it seem like there is so much tragedy here?” and he replied, “There isn’t more tragedy, it’s just that we know everyone.”

It’s the same here in Wallowa County. When tragedy strikes it seems amplified because we are so inter-connected.

In the past two weeks we’ve lost a fire fighter and a wildlife biologist — people who were inter-connected within the region through their respective agencies as well as the community.

The shock of these sudden losses reverberates throughout the county and beyond — and yet when someone dies and leaves a hole in our lives we can acknowledge how much richer we are for having known them and cherish the gift of friendship.


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