FLASHBACK: 1946. It’s June and we are speeding along at 50 mph on Highway 99, north to Oysterville. President Eisenhower and his interstate highway scheme are not even blips on the horizon. The road over the Siskiyous is tortuous and a bit scary and, as the shadows lengthen, mom and dad decide we’ll stop for the night in Weed. Dad calls it ‘a wide spot in the road’ but there’s an auto court there where we’ve stayed before.
As we pull in, Mom spies a car with a Washington license plate. “Look!” she says. “It’s someone from Pacific County!” And, before we know it, she is knocking at their door just as if she were visiting the next door neighbors. Then, hugs and laughter and a plan to share a picnic dinner at the tables under the trees.
Not neighbors. Not from Oysterville. But old family friends from Nahcotta! We were all delighted but, as I remember, we weren’t particularly amazed. If a license plate said ‘V’ we were bound to know them. That’s just the way it was in those days if you came from Pacific County. Everybody knew everybody.
That’s changed a tad in the last 40 or 50 years. Our population has increased — a lot by some standards but not fast enough according to others — so we don’t really know EVERYbody any more. But, a short conversation with almost any resident from our county will generate a discovery of friends, sometimes even relatives, in common.
My ‘California kids’ are amazed by that phenomena every time they come to visit. This past Christmas was no exception. When I called 911 at four a.m. on Christmas Eve, the EMTs were here evaluating Nyel before we even got our bathrobes on. They were all businesslike, efficient, and kind but the reassuring part was that two of the four were people we knew — Grant who works for Jack’s Country Store and Cory who was an Ilwaco High Student when Nyel was substitute teaching.
That’s just the way it is here. No matter where we go in the community — to the grocery store or to a restaurant, to a medical facility or to a fitness center — we are bound to see, often interact with, someone we know. Even across the river, there is always someone (or several someones) with whom we happily visit for a while, instead of attending directly to business. When you are in trouble, as Nyel was a week ago, there is great comfort in seeing a familiar face.
FAST FORWARD: 2017. The New Year is upon us. It has tromped into our lives relentlessly — welcomed by some, dreaded by many more — or so the pollsters and pundits tell us. The news is full of dire predictions concerning our future, both here in our country and throughout the rest of the world.
The conversations I’m hearing here at the beach, however, seem to march to a different drummer, if conversations can be said to march. “I sure am glad I live here” and “This is about the best place to be these days” are refrains I hear over and over. I couldn’t agree more. The old “Cheers” theme song, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” applies here, literally. In times of uncertainty and change, there is nothing more reassuring than the feeling of community.
So… Happy 2017 everybody! Thank goodness we live on ‘the western edge’ and in Pacific County where we can still call our neighbors by name and give them a high-five or a hug when they need it!
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.