Grow up, dig in, and take root

 

Outside magazine recently picked six or seven towns - mostly in the West - as great places to live. But those seduced into pulling up stakes by the glossy photos and idyllic promises in July's cover story should first consider a few facts.

Here are three days' worth of headlines from the Spokesman-Review, the newspaper of record in Spokane, Wash., one of Outside's dream towns: June 25: "Meth use sparks crime wave." June 26: "House near Manito sprayed with bullets." June 27: "Police call targeted teen Crips member."

Outside never mentions the Crips and the Bloods creeping into Spokane from California with their gifts of crack, pit bulls and guns. Guaranteed these boys aren't up here for the "76 lakes within a 50-mile radius' or the nearby "Class III-IV whitewater."

Nor does it mention the murder of 7-year-old Rachel Carver by her uncle, who was awaiting arraignment on sex assault charges; the porno bars, rent-by-the-hour motels and prostitutes that line the storefronts of East Sprague Street; or the time a 16-year-old boy emptied a sawed-off shotgun into a car with two occupants outside a Taco Bell while his friend shouted, "Shoot someone!'

As for Idaho Falls, Idaho - another Outside pick - we never hear about the 260 tons of highly radioactive waste stored nearby. But the magazine does mention that you can get a latté and hear live music.

In short, Outside's dream towns aren't the Edens the magazine would have us believe. For those who quote Outside like a new-age bible, they would be well advised that if they pull up roots in San San, Costa Vallejo Mesa Cul-de-Sac, or whatever community they flee, they better be prepared to roll up their sleeves and make their new dream town a better place to live - not just a place to dump their gear between river trips and power biking.

The entire premise of choosing one town over another is silly, and when it is done in hurried, sound-bite journalism, it becomes irresponsible.

Outside tells us how to get there, but not how to stay.

Never is there a mention of local politics or community issues. Not one line of type urging us to volunteer at a nursing home or to talk to the oldest resident in town. The magazine neglects to tell us there is history and value within the stories told at kitchen tables, bars and cafes, and a past etched in the bleached gravestones that look down on the houses from the nearby hillsides in Montana and Idaho towns like Bonner, Grangeville, Salmon and St. Ignatius.

Outside never says, "Approach slowly with humility and respect. Treat older residents with the dignity they deserve. Learn some history. Don't tell anybody what to do for at least five years. Leave your jet skis at home. Turn your stereos off. Volunteer for everything."

Instead of quoting the average price of a home in these "dream towns," shouldn't magazine writers beg us to stay put, extend our roots deeper, learn the native birds and plants and customs of our own communities, mark our territory, make our own coffee, plant lilacs, build porches, and step lightly? No longer is there any greener grass. There is only less of it. The problems of Moab, Utah, are now the same problems of Moscow, Idaho; Pasco, Wash.; and every other town of the West.

No matter what Outside promotes, the "cut and run" lifestyle of the modern 20th century is no longer an option. We need people to make a long-term commitment to stay through the best and the worst the West has to offer as we confront the challenges ahead. It may mean fewer trips to the mountains and more nights after work attending meetings. It will mean more volunteerism and expending more emotional energy. It will not be easy.

But as the years pass we may also find we already live in a dream town, and it is called home.

Stephen Lyons lives and writes in Moscow, Idaho.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...