Sunday, May 15 2005
Our downhill neighbor had needed to sell some tickets to "Durch Treat," a fundraising dinner for the Hur1ey Heritage Society, and she'd managed to find me while I was working on my trench project. I hadn't thought quickly enough to say we'd be out of town or whatever, so (for neighborliness sake) I'd bought the tickets, setting our household back $70. It's the sort of thing one does when trying to live happily in a community. It least it gave us something to chuckle about; "Dutch Treat" became both a set up and a punch line in the weeks that followed.
This evening was when the fundraising dinner was scheduled to take place at Twin Lakes, the Hurley mini-resort with the heart-shaped jacuzzis that had served as lodging for many of our wedding guests two years ago. We arrived at the appointed time and walked into the crowded meeting hall. Not surprisingly, Gretchen and I were by far the youngest guests there. I was also rather underdressed for such an auspicious occasion.
It was your typical fundraising dinner, featuring drab Dutch-style food served buffet-style. We sat at a table with our downhill neighbors, our uphill neighbors (the "Greenhouses") and some of the downhill neighbor's friends and family, most of them from Germany. The guy sitting next to me at our table was named Gunther and he didn't endear himself to Gretchen when (in his inherently malevolent German accent) he sang the praises of Gander Mountain, a newly-opened hunters' superstore. Gander Mountain is directly across the parking lot from Lowes and it features a hideous faux-log cabin facade. Gunther was expecially impressed by the enormous stuffed bear rearing up on its hind legs just inside the door.
As always, though, dinner conversation with our neighbors proved entertaining and uplifting. It isn't just that we all agreed politically, but we all have a rather similar sense of humor. As Gretchen pointed out later, the key to pleasant interactions with older people is not treating them as though they're somehow fundamentally different from yourself. There's no reason, for example, to be prudish around people just because they're forty years older than you, particularly when they've already demonstrated their freethinking ways on multiple occasions.
As always, conversation lingered for a long time on what wildlife had been spotted where. Nobody talked about "the bear," but the Greenhouses remarked upon a whippoorwill they'd heard the other night. It was the first they'd heard in years. But while whippoorwills are staging their comeback, the humble chipmunk seems to have nearly vanished over the past year in the aftermath of a population explosion. Our dog Sally used to spend most of her time in the woods either chasing after or digging for chipmunks. Now, though, there's nothing for her to chase and all she can do is walk down the trail and occasionally stop to sniff at interesting scents left by bigger, rarer creatures.
Later tonight after we got home I heard the whippoorwill calling not far to the northwest. For such a short, repetitive call, it somehow avoids being monotonous. I think this has something to do with the ernestness and enthusiasm of the whippoorwill's voice. He sounds like an eight year old boy in a 1950s-era sitcom.
Still later the fire siren could be heard down in the valley at Old Hurley's fire station. Whooo-eeee-ooooo! And in response came a great howling from a pack of coyotes somewhere up here atop the mountain. It feels civilized in our neighborhood, but nature remains close, at least for now.
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