15 December, 2008

The Good Life Out in the Sticks

I titled my little blog "Out in the Sticks" because (a) I couldn't think of another title that struck the right tone for me without sounding semi-blasphemous and (b) most of my colleagues think of me as living in the remote outskirts of civilized society.

My friends from Texas have a hard time imagining someone living in Oregon - it's practically Canada to some of them. My Oregon-Idaho colleagues think NE Oregon is horribly uncivilized compared to the Willamette Valley.* (I mean, we only have 2 Starbucks, 1 Dutch Brothers and, like, 4 local coffee joints. Our coffee store per capita is way too low...)

But I like living Out in the Sticks.

So here, on a snowy Monday morning, are reasons to love the Sticks. (Or at least La Grande, which is a particularly nice part of the Sticks, if I do say so myself.)

A snow storm is not the end of the world. Portland has shut down today because they got a couple of inches of snow. Schools have closed only once since I've been here, and that was because it was snowy and blowing so hard that the school buses were being blown off the road. (If I were still a student, this might be a reason I hated living in the Sticks.)

A block and a half from my house, our road heads up a steep hill. When it snows, the city closes the road so folks can go sledding. There are several places in town where this happens.

There are folks whose family has been farming for generations on the same farm.

With the local university and its very impressive music program, we have very gifted folks in town. Yesterday, at a concert, I heard two extraordinarily talented students sing a piece from a Puccini opera. If you haven't been to a concert with third- and fourth-generation farmers listening appreciatively to Puccini, then you just haven't lived.

I can look out the windows of my house and see mountains. And the largest wilderness area in Oregon is 15 miles away, offering 565 square miles of land left just as God intended.

Jen and I can walk to work, to restaurants and the movies and to (some of) our friends' homes.

Speaking of movies: We have a downtown, 3-screen theater and a drive-in that's open every summer which shows a double feature every weekend. I'll take that over 30 screen monsterplexes most any day.

With only a little work, we could source most of our meat (and a lot of our fruits and veggies) locally. We regularly have conversations with people about buying half a cow/sheep/pig etc., and which local ranchers are the best. I never had a conversation like this where I grew up.

So, that's part of it. But, it's time to get ready to head out into the 8 inches of snow to go to work. And then I can come home and go sledding for an hour or so.

much peace, much love, etc.

*For non-Oregonians, "Willamette" rhymes with "dammit."


  1. I agree with just about everything listed! (Except we got more than 8 inches of snow and my van doors are STILL frozen shut.) I also like it for: the ability that kids can still walk (Safely) just about anywhere for anything - and heck with numbered streets when one of mine gets *lost* he figured out how to get from 8th back to 6th street!

    the trains are still quaint sounding - when the blow all day long. At age 2 it was very exciting to meet every single train whistle with TOOT!!!!!! And Im thankful there are many ways around the train tracks.

    the noon bells of a local downtown church

    sitting in the same music concert and knowing over one quarter of the community choir.

  2. Angie says:
    Other great reasons to live in the sticks-
    -3 minute commute to work.
    -a woman alone if perfectly safe to go out after dark.
    -if your car breaks down in the middle of an intersection, people help push it to the side, not just honk at you and flip you off.
    -at a 4-way stop (or LaGrande's 5-way stops) drivers fight in Chip-and-Dale style over who to go first "no, you go,,,,,Oh I can't possibly go first, you go,,,,,you were here first, so you go,,,,,you are in much more of a hurry than I am so you go"
    -the men of our church actually raced to see who could get to the church first to shovel the snow this weekend
    -drivers wait patiently at a red light, they don't creep up trying to get that 1/8th second jump off the line
    -if said driver is still patiently waiting at the light and it turns green, the next driver in line gives them 20-30 seconds to realize the light changed before nicely tapping the horn and giving a "hey there daydreamer" wave
    -after the birth of our baby, we had so many friends, family, and coworkers bringing meals (ready-to-eat and frozen)
    that we didn't have to cook for 2 weeks.
    -strangers still say "excuse me" when trying to pass you in the aisles of WalMart

    I love to go to the big city once every few months to shop and eat, but once the lure of the glitz and lights begins to fade, I am so greatful for our little peace of heaven here in the sticks.

  3. Another wonderful reason to live in LaGrande is that a dedicated clergy couple are related to LaGrande UMC who do try to live for Jesus. Other "grande" reasons for living "in the sticks" are the neighbors knowing neighbors, walking everywhere, a wonderful purposefully slow pace, a vibrant downtown, smiles, civility, fantastic diversity with tons of respect, a very eclectic but fun community and an exceptional community of faith related to LaGrande UMC. And did I mention a wonderful pastor and "badass" spouse at Methodist Church.

    And to all a blessed and peace-fill Advent and an exciting birth of God's Son again on this Christmas 2008.. and whats more we get to spend Christmas Eve and Day with the pastor, his delightful spouse and the faith community of LaGrande UMC. And to all a Good night..ho ho ho

  4. So I hear all the rave reviews about your quaint little town but in my book, you're living in big city urbanization. Maybe it's a bit isolated but you live in a big city.

    Here on the eastern edge of the conference
    we're asking "What's a red light?"

    In our part of the country the real "out in the sticks" we know that you get the news straight from the ONLY real coffee shop, The Trails Inn.

    We may not have a college any closer than thirty minutes (BYU-I in Rexburg, Idaho) but we have the best High School Drama program in the state of Idaho. When you attend the community Christmas progam you are as likely to hear a former national performing star as a cute 3rd grader singing "White Christmas."

    As for snow, well, we don't schedule long winter breaks or spring breaks because the kids plan on at least nine or ten snow days either because the temps dip below -20 degrees or blizzarding winds close off most roads out in the farm country. And then there's spud break when the schools close so that the teachers and kids that can be cajoled into it all help with the spud harvest. Now that's really and truly a small town.

    And as safety goes, most doors are never locked in the community, an people boast about leaving their car keys in their ignition as a matter of common practice when they park around town. -

    By golly, I should have blogged this on my own *site http://bunsoldpeacehouse.blogspot.com/

    But honestly Clay, keep up the good work living for Jesus. You're getting rave reviews!

    Feliz Navidad,
    and keep on walking the walk that matches your talk.

    Come out to Ashton next May when I still have a foot of snow and we can go cross country skiing together- Or sooner if you and Jen can get away. There's a spare room here in the parsonage. Bring your guitar when you come.