By Bonnie Stichart
When I was asked by the Huckleberry Press to write down some of my thoughts about living in Huckleberry Country, all sorts of memories flitted through my mind.
Winter: experiencing my first real snow storm; learning to drive in snow; hauling my children and their friends to 49 Degrees for snowboarding and skiing; being dazzled by the fairyland of ice and snow that Sherman Pass became after a storm; sitting in my warm house watching snowflakes fall.
Spring: the varied shades of new growth on the trees and shrubs; wildflowers suddenly appearing in the grass, the mud (not everything is wonderful!), baby chicks in the house, thunderstorms, the evening chorus of tree frogs in the creek, the gradual warmth and lengthening of days.
Summer: that wonderful aroma of the pine trees, being able to wear sandals again, birdsong in the morning and crickets in the evening; the long, hot days; the blessing of low humidity on hot days; huckleberries (of course!); the festive feel of farmers’ markets; the smell of fresh-mown hay; rodeos and the county fair.
Autumn: the turning of the leaves to red, yellow, and brown; shuffling through the dry leaves in front of the Colville Library, cooling days and longer nights, the first morning fire, the geese honking their way south.
But that’s the stage for Huckleberry Country, not the essence. The essence, the character of this place, is the people who inhabit it.
Some of us who live in the country like to think we are rugged individualists; latter day Grizzly Adams and Ma and Pa Ingalls. But in actuality, we are dependent on one another. We don’t make our own paper or cars, or the roads the cars need, nor do we smelt iron and forge our own tools.
In Huckleberry Country there is not so much dependence as there is interdependence. Neighbors helping neighbors. Not a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” attitude, but more of a “pay it forward” thing. If I help out Neighbor Alice (who might well live miles from me), she may never have the chance to do something for me. But when I need help, there’s Neighbor Rick to the rescue!
When I first moved here I was amazed at the number of people who held doors open for me. Complete strangers would smile at me and say hello. After fifteen years, they still do!
I’ve often met people in Huckleberry Country for the first time who feel like old friends. Both my husband and I have noticed that we can have long conversations with people before remembering to introduce ourselves. Huckleberry Country people tend to be friendly and helpful.
Country life or town life? It’s not one or the other in Huckleberry Country. The towns depend on the country and the country depends on the towns. We grow some of our food, but year ’round I buy the food I don’t grow at the grocery stores.
A more old-fashioned example of interdependence is the farmers’ markets. As individuals, small farmers and craftspeople would have a difficult time connecting with customers. By working together they can offer their produce and wares on a regular schedule. Everyone benefits from this arrangement.
Making our own entertainment is another cooperative venture. Whether I attend a local play, a dance exhibition, or a performance of an orchestra or band, I often see people I know. Some are performing, others are behind the scenes, and the rest of us are a part of the appreciative audience.
Is everything perfect in Huckleberry Country? Unfortunately, no. There are mosquitoes and ticks, and some people who resemble those pests. They are an inconvenience. On occasion, they can be worse than that. But the community, as a whole, keeps its cohesiveness.
The area in which I grew up had abundant lupines and wild roses. I loved them both. When we were young, my friends and I would gather the lupine blossoms and string them for necklaces and crowns. In my teens, I collected wild rose petals to dry for potpourri. Later, I moved to a small town where there were no lupines and few wild roses. I remember telling a friend that if I ever moved again, I wanted to live where lupines and wild roses grew.
We saw our present property in February. There was too much snow for wildflowers and I didn’t think to ask about them. We moved in at the beginning of summer; I was thrilled to discover both lupines and wild roses.
There is so much more that could be said about Huckleberry Country and the people who make it special, but I’ve run out of space. Maybe that story is for someone else to write!