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Who's Your Mama?
On being local

There is risk in the topic of localness. Other than how you stood on the Early Winters ski area, or possibly the fee structure at state parks, nothing seems to generate as much passion and outcry as to who is and who is not a ‘local’.

At a potluck BBQ last summer - a large outdoor affair - I found myself in a small knot of folks I didn’t know. (This seems to be happening more and more.) One person had the floor – or the lawn as it may be – and was spewing forth about just how wonderful everything in the area was. Listening for a short time I was able to understand that the young lady had moved here about six months previously, purchased a home, found a job, and made a few friends. She also mentioned that she now considered herself a ‘local’.

She turned to me; “Are you new here, too?” she asked. Before I could get an answer out, she launched into an effusive litany of all things wonderfully Methow-y. “How do you like it”? “Isn’t it wonderful?” “Have you been to x and y and z?” I didn’t want to be the jaded old timer, but I got a little tired of her perkiness. A while later – after a lot more of the same - I just wanted to tell her to shut the hell up.

It is probably easier to define who is, rather than who is not a local.

You need to be employed most of year, raise a family, pay most of your taxes, have a driver’s license, vote, etc. in this place alone, rather than in two places. Owning a piece of unimproved property for a long spell doesn’t count, until and unless you build something and actually live on it for most of the year.

You have to be a sole resident of the valley, and just this place. I am always puzzled by letters to the Editor at the Methow Valley News signed, for instance - Kirkland and Beaver Creek. Really? Would you write a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times and sign it Carlton and Tukwila? Nah – I didn’t think so.

Being born here yourself and moving away at a young age and them moving back at retirement 40 years on, doesn’t count either. Your connection is just an accident of birth; sort of like having blue eyes, being left-handed, or having a really noticeable mole. It just IS – nothing more. I’m sorry - you are not unique, and no, you are not local, either.

Owning a “cabin” here for 30 years doesn’t count either. The pack rats in your attic are local, you are not. Coming over to your great-uncle’s favorite deer camp doesn’t work either. The deer that out-foxed you are more local than you will ever be. Being a grandchild, niece or nephew of someone born here, and you didn’t ever live here – doesn’t count.

Of course, the most vocal of the ‘I’m local and you’re not’ contingent are those that insist that one HAS to have been located here prior to the opening of the North Cross State Highway, i.e. 1972. These people seem inordinately proud of their roots, which seems odd to me. I know some people of my generation who dribbled into the area right after this magic date, but few who came prior to that.

All these tests are clearly and ultimately subjective. In the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter at all. We all came from somewhere else. Still, there is one fail proof “must – do – to – be – a – local”, and that is to be able to pronounce the word ‘Methow’, correctly.

My own lesson in ‘local-ness’ occurred seven or eight years ago. One of the valley old timers squinted at me and asked. “How long have you been around here now, Jim?” “Over 25 years”, I replied. “Well then”, he said as he grinned and set his beer down and meditatively moved it in circles on the bar, “I guess we could upgrade your status from tourist to newcomer”.


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OK. Now-how does one pronounced the word ARCHAMBEAULTS?

Bob Spiwak

West Boesel