The bulldozer was busy flattening my property so I could build a small house that would be our summer getaway for years to come. I saw two fellows watching from the road, and so, I introduced myself.
By Walt Trandum
They told me that our little town doesn’t get much building action and the bulldozer sound was a signal of progress.
During my building phase, there were several neighbors who came by, and it was a nice feeling to be welcomed into the community. Later in the construction period, I was clearing the lot next door to make way for a garage and shop building. Those same two fellows who came around in the beginning were there to see the action. There were a few very large trees that actually leaned over the neighbor’s property on the down hill side. One of those guys offered to take down those trees if I wanted them to do so. I was told that the smaller man was a former timber faller and the other guy had some experience as well.
I watched in awe how one of those old guys climbed the tree and attached a long rope that was pulled up hill and through a block pulley and then tied to the back of a pickup truck. The faller made his cuts and managed to fall the tree exactly where I wanted it and then added the other tree right next to it. Another tree was felled and they were all quickly limbed leaving me with a great pile of firewood that would last for a couple years.
All of the above was my introduction to living in a small town where helping neighbors was a way of life. I was talking with an old high school friend who lives in New England and he mentioned that he too lived in a small town. I asked him how many people were there and he said almost ten thousand. That prompted to tell him that my small town had 350 according to the sign on the edge of town. Found out that sign isn’t accurate, but the State wants a big fee if they have to change the numbers. I think we are above 400 now.
This small town life has some big plusses. One of them is that we don’t have mail delivered and so we have to go to the post office to see if we have any action. Even if there is no mail, chances are you will meet a neighbor or some other person you know and there will be either a nod or a short visit. Lately, it has been mostly sad news and so that is not good, but maybe better than just reading about someone passing in the newspaper.
That Post Office is the center of the town and even though they have cut back the hours they are there, it is important. There are all kinds of laws about what kind of notes or notices can be displayed on the cork boards that cover one wall. For some reason any kind of commercial advertising is prohibited and we all get a big hand full that stuff darn near every day from our own mail box. They used to allow non profit community organizations to advertise upcoming events, but we recently had a change of people and everything that was on the boards was taken down
I think we might petition those Post Office people to relax their regulations to allow lost kitties to be posted and maybe a good old fashioned civic event that is operated by someone other than just the City of Wheeler or whatever city you live in. I haven’t noticed lately if they still have those pictures of the Most Wanted people. Maybe they think that catching them would not be in the best interest of the citizens, or for that matter, the postal service.
Occasionally, I have the opportunity to chat with people who have chosen to climb the hill in Wheeler and they all marvel at the view and the general feel of the place. The other day, I had a nice visit with some people who ended up telling me one of them has the last name of Wheeler, and they had no idea of the history of this place and the old Wheeler Mill that was at one time the largest mill west of the Mississippi. I told them some of the history of the Rinehart Clinic and the link to several small motels that existed for many years. I also told them that the beautiful park on our water front was built with much volunteer help and is still being cared for by those people
The old pilings along the water are all that is left of most of what happened way back when, but even they have a nice historical feel about them.
Those old timers who welcomed us to this place a long time ago are all gone now, and we newcomers are now the old folks. I hope those who follow get to enjoy that wonderful experience of living in a really small town.