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MEEKER — In all of the uproar about the community’s questionable welcoming spirit to the oil, gas and construction workers, one thing is never truly addressed. The often unspoken common view that the town is filled with people who choose to live here (or should choose to live here) permeates the small town atmosphere and sets up a wide gap between the newcomers and the middle and old-timers.
Supposedly, a middle-timer is someone who moved here from somewhere else originally, although they have stayed here for more than 20 years or so. The common bond between the middle-timer and the old-timer is that staying power.
“How long will you stay?” is one question that continues to plague our newest residents. I’m not sure why we all persist in this line of inquiry, particularly with the energy industry’s time-honored tradition of temporary employment stints. The nature of work in this occupation is that it is usually short-term, so this line of questioning is usually pointless. What does it matter if someone doesn’t plan to stay here a lifetime? It is their interest and participation in community activities and organizations that counts.
One erroneous assumption is that all the folks who grew up and remained in this valley made a choice to remain here. It may look that way, but everyone’s reasons for staying in the “old hometown” are very different. Some of the hometown folks who never had a chance to leave because of their social and economic obligations tell a different story. Things are often more complex than they appear, as a letter to the editor in the newspaper recently pointed out.
While some of the ranchers and farmers continue to pass on their heritage to the following generations, quite a few have had to cut back in their operations or have moved on to other vocations. Before the energy companies revved up for this next wave of development, most of the few jobs to be found were in the fairly low-paying service sector. I can still remember many individuals who, although they have since moved away, made a difference in many local organizations, as well as the general community. The role of every community member in shaping the future can’t be understated, and by minimizing one another’s value, we are only guaranteeing that the changes we face daily will be affected by more than growing pains.