The Saratoga Sun -

Helping Hand Mindset


February 26, 2020

Growing up I lived in some small towns in Texas but, even then, they were in close proximity to Houston. When my folks moved to the D.C. area, my father had us live in suburbs. My mother liked living more rural. She and my stepfather liked being away from what they called “anthill living” which meant having a house with a bit of acreage and in small towns that were just outside the D.C. metro area. Dad liked the suburbs and, since I lived with him most of the year, that lifestyle was my upbringing. I would not say there was any type of close sense of community in our town; that came from church.

I have vague memories of small town living as far as it being easy to make friends when I visited my mother in the summer, but, because I was a kid, I didn’t notice people going out of their way to help others in need.

This isn’t to lay judgment on Maryland/Virginia natives. My mother changed houses like most people change cars so she lived in both states and almost all homes were in small towns.

When I left D.C., I moved to Honolulu. It is not a small town, but people are friendly there. The aloha spirit is alive and well, which means people are welcoming, but most residents are caught up in making a living and it is a very transient place. I would never describe it as neighborly.

Given that the smallest city I lived in while in Asia was 3 million, small town living didn’t exist for me. There is very little single family housing unless you get out to the countryside with all the rice paddies.

I have a few recollections of Taiwanese helping me in some of these small communities when my motorcycle broke down or me asking for a place to get something to eat. I can say there was friendliness to be found on this island but my Chinese is like that of a five year old, so I didn’t have long conversations. Plus in the interior of Taiwan, where most of these towns were located, Westerners were uncommon, so I got attention by just being in the town to begin with.

Australian people loved to hear my accent and I have many tales of people helping me because I was American.

Don’t get me wrong. It was great to be helped by strangers and I am grateful to this day for all that got me out of trouble.

It was not until I moved to Wyoming that I really got a dose of how people help neighbors and strangers alike. It started from the day I came with my friend Darby Doll to Saratoga. His friends took me under their wing from the very beginning.

If Kirsten Campbell, daughter of the Campbells’ that own the Hotel Wolf, hadn’t offered me a job and place to stay one summer 20 years ago, it is highly unlikely I would have made my home in Carbon County.

The year I lived in my townhouse in Saratoga I could not believe how people would show up at my door in the summer and ask if I wanted to go floating. Doors were left unlocked and friends would tell me to go into their house and retrieve a tool, book or something else. Even my move to Hanna happened because my friend Cliff Jones was helping me deal with my lack of space in my townhome.

There is a reason I would miss Carbon County when I was living overseas in big cities that was hard to explain to people who had no idea of what it is like to live in a small town.

When I moved to Hanna from Saratoga, Scott McIllvaine moved me. I have moved around quite a lot in my life but, I have to point out, Scott made that move easy as pie. People have helped me move before with their physical labor but Scott provided the whole package. It was the first time I never had to rent a truck.

The helpful spirit of Kirsten and Scott are not unique in Saratoga, or Carbon County for that matter.

There are a lot of people I can tell you are helpful in this county.

I recount about five years ago when I had to get some plumbing supplies at Shively’s in Saratoga. While driving past Walcott, I realized I left my cell at home. It wasn’t a big deal because my plan was to be in and out of Saratoga.

It was near Rattlesnake Pass that I looked over to my left and I saw a rolled car on its side. More important, I saw a woman frantically waving her arms.

At that moment, I realized a cell phone would have been useful.

I pulled over and made my way to the car. There was a mother and two young kids more or less trapped. She handed me the kids out the window, but she was too big or scared to get out.

Around this time another car pulled over. It was Dan Hodgkiss and his wife. I brought the kids over to Dan’s car and another car pulled over. Someone had a cell and a call to 911 was made. Within 10 minutes of me arriving on the scene, a half dozen cars had pulled over. A group of us got the lady out in a timely manner.

It was very inspiring how many people pulled over.

Almost every time I have pulled over on US 30 or Wyo 130 and put on my hazards, a person has pulled over to check that I was okay.

Recently, I had the reason why I live in a small town hit me in the face.

My kick ass red Honda Civic hit its last animal last week. It has been up against jack rabbits, deer, a porcupine and faced down antelopes. But sadly I hit a dead antelope that pushed in my radiator.

I hoped for the best but later my car died in the Hanna Marshal’s parking lot. Marshal Jeff Neimark and deputy Patricia Gonzales went out of their way to help me. Soon I had Ken Paxton towing my car to my driveway where we pushed it into the garage. All three spent an hour or two helping me with my dilemma.

It didn’t take a genius to know the car was probably not going to come back from the dead antelope in the road encounter, so I made arrangements to get a rental car in Laramie the next day.

Roads and weather were dicey and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get to Laramie. Hanna postmaster Debbie Paxton volunteered without me even asking.

Roads were not good that day but she faced WY 72 and I-80 with no hesitation. The interstate between Elk Mountain and Arlington had us going slow because the road disappeared. When I thanked her for facing all the adverse driving conditions, she told me that it was nothing.

It was definitely something and, over the past week, I have been remembering many instances of people in the Valley and northern part of the county helping me or others.

I don’t know if it is in the water, but my experience has been that Carbon County residents really watch out for each other and even strangers.

In a world that often comes off as uncaring, that just isn’t true about this area. I don’t know if I have just been lucky but, of all the places I have lived, Carbon County wins as the home of the most generous and helpful people I have ever been exposed to.

I know there is a chance many Carbon County residents take this helpful nature for granted. I guess in a way that is a good thing because it comes natural to most and doesn’t seem all that special.

It is.


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