“I’ve had enough of small towns,” said our dinner guest last Tuesday, a friend of a friend. “I know what they’re like. I grew up in one. Small-minded people with boring lives.”
How many people, we asked, do you know in Dubois?
“Oh, not many. I mostly go to the Superfoods and the post office, sometimes the Cowboy. And then home.”
You should try to meet a few, we suggested.
“How would I do that?”
Oh, maybe go to Happy Hour. Or volunteer for something. There should be some way you could help out.
One day later, invited to dinner at someone else’s home, we noticed the photos of Italy rotating on the digital frame on her kitchen’s island. And then a few from somewhere in eastern Europe.
What is it about Dubois, we asked ourselves. So many people here with so much interesting history. There are so many fascinating back-stories, once you start to ask. For instance, these weren’t vacation snapshots. She worked for a federal agency and traveled the world on business.
Someone in New York asked me once if there’s diversity in Dubois. Well, not in the usual politically correct sense of the word. Our minister is a black woman, but she doesn’t feel like “diversity” because she grew up here. You don’t see Latinos on the street every day, or people from China or Korea or even Native Americans. But yes: There is tremendous diversity in another sense.
We lived many kinds of lives in many other places, and then at some point decided to take that crazy leap and follow the dream that we had been cherishing for so many years. And here we all are.
Those who have always lived here are just as worth engaging in many long conversations: The orphan wrangler who married the debutante from out east, and happily settled down on the ranch. The logger who kept on lumbering and built a life after the sawmill closed, because leaving was just not an option. These are just the first two who come to mind.
It’s also great fun to talk to the younger people who have landed here for one reason or another. So many hope to find a way to stay.
This evening I went for a book signing, to celebrate a new biography of local artist and historian Tom Lucas. It’s written by someone who moved here a few years ago (she and her husband just couldn’t stay away), became intrigued by his life, and decided to document it all.
As I expected, the event was packed, with people spilling out from his gallery onto the sidewalk and lined up inside to buy the book. I can’t wait to read it, even though I know Tom well and count him a good friend. There must be lots I still don’t know.
Tom is a remarkable person, and well deserving of this distinction. But come to think of it, so many fascinating biographies could be written here. The mind boggles.
© Lois Wingerson, 2016
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