June 2, 2011 —
As a weekender for 25 years, I paid little attention to the workings of Sullivan County. I enjoyed its beauty; my wife became a passionate gardener; I found I enjoyed woodworking. We took part in some local events and made a few friends, mostly people with whom we had done business. We met other weekenders. Some became friends, and with many we shared “small world” coincidences.
Ten years ago, my wife became a full-time resident. I continued working in the city until three years ago, when I too moved up full time. Of course I am still not “local,” and wouldn’t be even if my 35 years had all been full-time. Are “locals” jealous of their hereditary status? I don’t blame them; after three continuous years of full-time country life, even I begin to see weekenders as “other.”
Perhaps it’s a tribal instinct: they have split loyalties. Perhaps it’s that country life requires that you know something about a lot of things—fix the tractor, mend the fence. City folks, on the other hand, need to know one thing well, and count on their phones for the rest. But it’s an unfair view of our weekenders. Folks who choose to come here are usually those who are eager to get their hands in the dirt, or make the Adirondack chair from scratch (or plans.)
Conversations with local friends sometimes engaged our different perspectives. The young stonemason who built the astonishing wall on our house, and his wife, are Republicans and gun enthusiasts. On occasion our visits became discussion. We would disagree, but each of us became acquainted with the other’s reasons for our beliefs, and although no one’s philosophy was converted, there were alterations of some views. There was never a loss of respect on either side—and my young friend taught me to shoot skeet, and I made him drawers for a gun cabinet.
Not everyone I met was a sympathetic soul. One neighbor I discussed fracking with said he wasn’t worried because he could get himself a “Jew lawyer.” I wonder if that compound noun is his only way of expressing the concept.
I might have continued taking Sullivan County for granted. But first the attempted NYRI transmission line, and then the shafting we’re promised by Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, demanded attention. Around these serious issues, there has arisen something unexpected but welcome—community. I think the area always had it. My young friends who resent means-tested government programs don’t hesitate to pitch in at a barn raising or to take in a family whose house has burned down. But it took these threats—common cause—to bring together an extraordinary variety of folks, local and weekender, each making contributions as their time and ability allows. It’s a big warm foxhole.
[Roy Tedoff is a resident of Hortonville, NY.]