Winter is no surprise in Palouse Country … we expect four seasons around here. It’s what makes the soil so fertile.
But winter teases us … messes with our emotions and this year has been a flirt more than ever. Snow caught us by surprise before Halloween, but then kept its cool, playing us … making us think it was about done. There’s been plenty of snow, but just an inch or two. Then comes February.
Snow in February makes us a little nervous. That’s the fault of the February of 2019.
We had just moved here, and like everyone else had just begun to breath a sigh of relief that winter might be doable our first year. When we first came here, we didn’t know that My Guy’s job would be an hour away. We found ourselves divided. We wanted snow … after several years near the coast if we were going to have a wet winter, we preferred that it would be be white rather than gray and drab. But we also didn’t want My Guy stuck in a snow drift, miles away from anyone alongside of a country road.
Well … the snow came that year. Three weeks nonstop … the snow piles from the plows grew so ginormous that they didn’t fully melt until late in April.
One thing stood out remarkable to me. People were extremely quick and generous in helping each other … even strangers.
There’s a community FB page and neighbors quickly answered the questions of those new to the area. Is this much snow normal? Is school cancelled? What do people do with pre-school kids on late start days when those classes get cancelled? Will garbage service come? How are road conditions going North today? South? Where’s the best place to get the newly acquired dents out of our car?
But one thing is rarely asked … Can someone help plow us out?
It’s somewhat amusing to me … just about anything with wheels seems to instantly grow a snow plow when the white stuff piles up. Regular snow plows, snow blowers, road graders, lawn mowers, four wheeled tractors, giant field tractors, pick up trucks, ATVs … anything but maybe motorcycles.
I could hear husband’s everywhere saying to their wives … See honey, I told you we needed to invest in that plow.
I suppose it could be chalked up to the lure of having one more cool tool on hand that accounts for so many snow plows and so many helpers, but I think it’s more explained by the nature of things around here. The nature to help. A generous nature.
I don’t mean to romanticize rural living or rural people. We have plenty of flaws, but I think it’s safe and right to say that people in our area are kind and helpful.
Makes me think of something I observed last March, a few weeks after the pandemic and lockdowns set in. I was at my job (I manage the local library) when a couple strolled by. (Just to note, the library wasn’t open to the public, but offered curbside service at this time. Also, I came in to work on reorganizing things and to tackle some deep cleaning.)
This couple glanced through shop windows and tried door handles, apparently looking to see if any of our businesses … especially the coffee shop … were open. As I was in and out of Library, gathering books out of the dropbox and collecting our mail from the Post Office, I noticed that they had stopped to talk to one of our locals, a retired farmer.
I only heard snatches, but enough to gather that they lived in Spokane, and feeling restricted by lockdowns, had headed south to see if anything was open … if anything was normal.
In the Library to put away mail.
Out again to sweep the sidewalk.
Loud voices filled the air. The man from Spokane was shouting at the farmer. “You’re all just a bunch of small-minded hicks. All you people around here do is watch Fox News and hang around other white people. You have no understanding of the real world.” (Note: the visitor himself was white.) He stomped up the sidewalk and to his wife who had nervously moved herself away from her yelling husband.
I don’t know what led up to this outburst but I did find it amusing that the guy had come to our community to see if somehow we weren’t locked down like the rest of the world (all of our businesses were closed and following guidelines) and yet all he saw was a bunch of backwards, narrow-minded people.
I’ve heard these same assumptions repeatedly by people passing through … people who have never spent more than a minute … well, maybe three … in little towns like mine.
How does it feel to live around a bunch of racists. The insinuations come in many forms … as do the accusations that no one knows how to think for themselves or has more than a high school degree, if even that.
One time, a visitor to the library even said to me, “Wow! I can tell that you are educated.” Great surprise filled his voice. (Yes. I have a college degree … as do a great many people in our town and county. In fact, our county houses the second largest university in the state.)
I won’t get into a debate about politics or how all city people or all rural people can be lumped into one category … because they can’t and they shouldn’t.
But one thing I know for sure … and that I’ve told people a few times … if you come around here and you need something … if you get stuck in a snowdrift … have a flat tire … are in an accident … run out of gas … need money for food … even if you’re not a good human … if you do drugs … or get in trouble with the law … but if you have a basic human need (as long as you’re not hurting kids, elderly people or another human) … you WILL be helped.
No matter the color of your skin, or the tattoos, or the nose rings (we have those too, after all). No matter your education. No matter the campaign stickers on the bumper of your car. No matter your judgments (or misjudgments) of those who live here.
You will BE helped.
There might be some gossip. There might be different opinions. There might be a few cuss words. But …
You will be HELPED.
I’ve seen it again … and again … and again.
That … and four wonderful seasons … especially the snow … are just part of why I love this rural life of which we live.
And … as a final thought. My heart is with the people of Texas. It’s one thing to get an unexpected snow storm, but to mix it with crazy low temperatures that cripples the system … that is truly scary. No matter how much finger pointing people want to do about what’s taken place with the power grid shutting down … one thing has rung true for Texans as what we are experiencing here … people help each other in these situations. I’ve read many touching stories and sure more will come to light in days ahead. Let’s all hope that winter is about ready to wrap it up! Hang in their Texas!