I have been lucky enough to live in small towns. It’s not a place for everyone, obviously, or they would not remain small. I’m talking about towns of 50 people, or 200 people. And that’s counting all the folks living in the surrounding hills for miles away.
It’s different. People know when you’re coming or going, and what you’re doing. But they look out for you, look out for your kids, look out for your dogs. They’ll come help you out when you need it, and call you for help when they need it. They know stories about you, but you know stories about them, so it always turns out OK. It wouldn’t occur to them to pass a vehicle and not wave.
I began to think of what I did not have here. As much as I cherish my solitude and nature, and have few needs beyond my family, my ranch, and my mountain, there are times I do miss the camaraderie of neighbors. Real neighbors. And quiet and private as I am, I became sad and somewhat longing.
And then a funny thing happened. I started to hear from lots of folks who are neighbors, in the truest sense of the word. And realized that no matter how remote we are, we still do have a wonderful sense of community, companionship, and caring.
And I realized that “real” neighbors are folks who care, and share, and even though they may not always be here, they have a piece of themselves stashed on this mountain somewhere, and a piece of the mountain back home hidden away in their heart.
I began to think of all the wonderful neighbors I have had in the past, and do have now – though they may come here from as close as the town of Creede, an hour away; or as far away as Texas and Oklahoma; or beyond – perhaps as far as the reaches of the world wide web. And although they may stay here but for a story, a week, or a season, they are my neighbors now.
So, although I can’t find the words yet to define what makes a true neighbor, I have thought of many examples to remind me of what to look for if I’m ever in doubt again.
Neighbors are the kind of folks that call you to come help clean up some downed wood when they know you are out of fire wood in the middle of winter. (That downed wood was bucked and split.)
Or hand pick you bags of blackberries (NOT the thornless kind!) because they know you can’t grow them.
Or send you a stash of pecans because, they say, it was a bumper crop year.
Neighbors are the kind of folks that herd your runaway cows that showed up on the county road… with their road grader as they are driving by.
Or stop by to drop off a loaf of bread because the recipe called for two, but they only needed one.
Or knock on your front door to let you know they saw a bear near your house where your child is often playing.
Neighbors are the kind of folks that show up on your Anniversary with cake and champagne, when even you didn’t take the time to do anything special.
Or show up right before Christmas with a plate of goodies they spent weeks baking.
Or drop off some potatoes, or elk meat, or whatever they might be blessed to have enough of, but you know not too much.
And this one kind of sums it all up: Neighbors are the kind of folks that can stop what they are doing and take a few minutes to sit down and chat over a cup of hot coffee or tea.