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“Somebody said” has been the start of many untrue stories and gossip in this community since the late 1870s. Reading the local oral histories and talking with history buffs about the different rumors plaguing the White River Valley from the earliest days of settlement, I am struck by the effectiveness of the gossip mill.
While a number of the mule skinners, trappers, cowboys and ranch families certainly stuck close to their own kind, there were others who mingled among all of the valley’s inhabitants and passed on the gossip of the day, the week, the month or the year.
It’s not surprising then that even today the “somebody said” grapevine has not been broken for more than a century. The power of this type of communication can’t be understated, as even newcomers soon discover how difficult it is to undo the damage done.
Whether it be erroneous reports about the intentions of the big oil and gas concerns or the construction of the new elementary school, the constant buzz in the community creates a backwash of speculation and assumption.
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Ever since “Jeff from the paper” arrived at the Herald Times, his interest in the community has generated a new enthusiasm for this area. His front page “people features,” as well his opinion pieces, give everyone a chance to look at a different side of the White River valley. The people connection is the most important part of a community and it is reflected in the various talents and interests of the residents. His recent column note on his conversation with Jon Hertzke Jr., demonstrates his willingness to get to know his new community thoroughly, which includes even far-flung Meeker’s native sons and daughters.
I find that most every trip over the mountains uncovers just one more connection to home, as sometime during the trip someone will say something like, “Did you say you were from Meeker? My sister’s husband’s best friend used to hunt up there.” Or “I worked with a lady whose daughter worked upriver every summer.” Occasionally, you’ll run into an even more primary source who has lived in the White River Valley and only moved away for better employment.
The way the economy is going everywhere else, I wasn’t surprised recently when a bus driver asked me, “Are the oil and gas companies hiring right now? I always wanted an excuse to come up there and stay awhile.” While I had to say that I wasn’t aware of any openings presently, he was persistent, and said, “Oh, I know they’ll be hiring again soon. Be sure and let me know, I really want to have an excuse to live there for a while.”
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As the annual spring break exodus from our community comes closer, the thought occurred to me of what the residents of the most common communities visited do to get away from all that warmth and sunshine. The word “snowbird” comes to mind for our residents who only stay here for the warmer months, and go south before the snow flies. Has anyone spotted our own version of a “sunbird” — the one or two who come to the mountains for the snowy months? They are rare, but an occasional sighting is reported by residents who say they are easily identified by the snowmobile trailers they pull behind them.
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An article in The Denver Post recently focused on a collection of original Lakota Sioux artifacts that will be displayed at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo. On loan from a private collector in Belgium, the collection is comprised of a number of items from one Lakota family and includes such things as beaded moccasins and a wooden flute. The article mentions that many Americans continue to be surprised by the Europeans’ continued interest in the history of the Old West. It reminded me of one German “Wild West” club that visited Meeker one summer. Many of their members described their lifelong fascination with the subject. Apparently, they donned cowboy hats and boots for their meetings, regularly rode together and spent much of their vacations visiting historic sites in the United States.