The ties that bind - friendly neighbors
By JoEllen Collins
A few weeks ago in this column I said
goodbye to one of the taller figures of recent Idaho history, Jack
Today, I intend to honor some lesser known
people, the not so famous who make our lives fuller. I've often held that
true courage is approaching each day with enough energy and enthusiasm to
continue putting one foot in front of the other, even when life may be
difficult. It is a real bonus, then, when the people we encounter on a
daily basis uplift our spirits by their positive attitudes.
In 1981, when I first came to Idaho to ski,
I rented my gear from Pete Lane's in Sun Valley. I was aghast when they
didn't require ID and, after I decided I didn't want to ski for the full
duration of the package, refunded the rental days I hadn't used. The
exigencies of business in a resort town may make that kind of trust rare
today, but the whole tone and spirit of friendliness profoundly affected
me at the time and was one of the reasons I delighted in my eventual
choice of this valley as a residence.
I still think we’re a pretty friendly
town. In spite of occasional grumbling about parking and crowding and
unwary winter drivers, most of us know the importance of a friendly
attitude toward our tourists. What I like about living here is the sense
of camaraderie we develop among our residents, a friendliness and lively
communication with each other that makes this place unique.
One person who embodied this spirit was a
man named Don Martin. If you are a moviegoer, you may notice his absence.
Whenever I entered the lobby of the Ski Time Cinema, Don, the manager,
would share a large smile and some enthusiasm for the picture I’d
chosen. When I walked out at the end of the flick, he’d wait for my
review and, if I liked it, give me a big grin. The warmth of his
personality enhanced my movie-going experience; he loved movies and he
loved his job. He died just before the New Year. I will miss that
gregarious teddy bear of a man.
In that vein, let me hasten to say that
Steve Bynum, at the Magic Lantern, has the same salubrious effect on his
customers; his love of the cinema is contagious. I trust that he will
continue to add zest to my quest for the magical experience of seeing a
I can’t begin to name the many friendly
people who work in this town, and I won't try, but I think that we all
know the good feeling of dealing, for example with a friendly post office
worker. After I returned from a five-year absence, I walked into the
town's post office and was greeted by Pat, who rattled off my former
mailbox number. "Only in the Wood River Valley," I thought.
Later, I saw a mug shot of cute little puppies on the wall of the P.O. and
wound up getting a Jack Russell terrier from her.
Shortly thereafter, the bit of fluff named
Oscar (because he was my own special Academy Award) was kidnapped from my
car in Twin Falls. Pat and dozens of others in this town rallied to the
task of finding him; he was on the Internet and in the hearts of many.
Fortunately, I found him many days later and he is still with me, but the
most important lesson I learned through that experience was about the
concern of my townspeople and friends.
Like many locals, I enjoy walking through
the neighborhood market and seeing people there every day who smile and
acknowledge our acquaintance. God forbid I should have a bad hair day when
I stock up on groceries! I must add that in all the years of shopping
there, I have rarely had other than a positive encounter with a checker.
Most of the time, we greet each other warmly, perhaps comment on the
weather (that universal icebreaker) or our sniffles, or even exchange
To my happy surprise, our local office of
the U.S. Forest Service proved a formidable ally for an unknown
constituent. Last summer I noted the drinking-party destruction of one of
my favorite campsites up Corral Creek. After I told the people at
Ketchum's Forest Service office about it, I was pleasantly surprised to
see that within a week the site had been cleaned and the vehicle access
sealed off. Would such an alert have been noticed or corrected that
quickly in a big-city office?
I’m sure there are times when small-town
denizens feel claustrophobic or the object of too much attention. Many of
us have experienced the unwelcome scrutiny of gossip or unwanted publicity
when unpleasant things have happened.
On the other hand, anyone who has been
through a personal tragedy in this valley knows the loving warmth of our
community. I guess you can’t have one facet of small-town life without
the other. I, for one, will accept the trade.
If the fabric of our lives is made stronger
by the weave of our interactions, then we are indeed fortunate to be
wrapped in the positive attitudes of those around us. I deeply appreciate
the daily connections we experience and am thankful I live in this place.