I think it’s a safe bet that almost everybody who has moved to Boundary County was, one way or another, escaping the fast track. Whether they hailed from Los Angeles, Seattle, Memphis or elsewhere, one way or another, the future was coming at them too fast. Jobs were changing to reflect new technology, expectations were increasing as competitive pressures built, and they were finding it more difficult to keep in touch with old friends and social groups. The world was becoming something bigger than human size, and the relentless changes were creating a scary future.
The move here frequently was for reasons something like the theme for the TV series “Cheers,” that is Bonners Ferry and Boundary County were someplace “Where everybody knows your name.” Moving here represents a chance to live a life scaled for humans rather than one with requirements of being Super-mom, Super-dad or Super-student. We have a place where it is accepted for you to stop and linger with friends, can rapidly get to know most everybody you meet on the street downtown and not feel guilty to take an afternoon off fishing, skiing, hiking or just enjoying nature and fabulous views.This all is part of the charm of Bonners Ferry and the Boundary County life style and is part of the reason those of us who have been here for years stay here.
Yet, even though we enjoy our lifestyle isolated somewhat from the outside world, change is coming and sooner or later, the future will arrive in Bonners Ferry. As transportation gets easier for more people, we will have more tourists and visitors traveling through. As the local percentages of people receiving their news and socializing from the Internet increase, patterns of how we relate with others will change.
If we don’t take care and build to maintain the rural values of our community, and patterns of socializing, we could lose them and become as isolated from each other as the city apartment dwellers who rarely meet those who are living next door.
There are a lot of little patterns we use to keep in touch with our friends and acquaintances, and are the lubricant that makes a community. The future could take them from us if we are not mindful of what we are doing. For example, the Farmers Market is a place to meet, visit and share the products of our labor. The County Fair is the one time of the year I can expect to see almost everybody I know, and everybody has a fun time either sharing products or appreciating others efforts at growing things, pictures or numerous other personal creations. These are a couple of the important tools that help maintain the style of life we all enjoy. If they are allowed to go away, then we are allowing our unique lifestyle to go away.
It seems attendance at the annual County Fair has gone down in recent years, presumably because it interferes with favorite TV programs or Internet activity at home. The loss of maximum attendance at our County Fair would help strangle an important building block of our community, and could be a tragic result of letting the future and change control us, rather than us preparing for and controlling the results of inevitable change that is coming our way.
Here’s one small example of how this might happen, if we let it. For our whole history as a county, election returns have been a social event. The evening of Election Day, political party leaders, candidates, campaign volunteers and interested citizens would gather at the courthouse to watch the election returns be written on the chalkboard as the returns came in. This was probably the best chance for political opponents and allies to meet and visit as real people and neighbors. I’ve attended those election-watch gatherings in several states and they were always enjoyable social events cementing friendships.
Today, with the Internet, the person sitting at home gets the returns first, so almost nobody shows up at the courthouse anymore, and this important community-building event has been lost.
We at the Digest are focused on finding and supporting those communitybuilding activities that seem minor, but are so important in maintaining our sense of community. We feel we need to do this to help maintain the down-home lifestyle that makes the future a friend, rather than a threat. So long as we maintain neighborly activities like the Farmers Market and the County Fair, our rural style of life has nothing to fear from the future.