October 26, 1989 (Ira Pilgrim)

A Country School

The greatest journey begins with a single step.

Oriental proverb

One day late in August, I was driving home past the Spyrock School. There were a bunch of cars parked there, so I stopped to see what was going on. I also wanted to meet the new teacher.

There were two kids riding a couple of horses -bareback. A donkey was following the horses. Kids were running all over the place and a few women held babies.

At the rear of the building were a group of men, bare to the waist; I mean above their waists. They were digging post holes in the hard dry ground, to anchor some super-heavy-duty playground equipment. We chatted for a while and then I went home to put the food that I had in the truck into the refrigerator.

As I drove home, I thought that what was happening at that school was a wonderful thing. To those people, the school did not belong to the school district, it was their school. It belonged to them and to their children. Since it was their's, they took care of it. Parents came and helped to get it ready for school, and helped to clean it up during the year. I even had a twinge of regret that all of my kids were grown -but just a very slight twinge.

The families really didn't expect the school district to install that equipment. They were grateful that the district provided it and they were happy to install it. Besides, it was fun; community projects usually are.

I couldn't help contrasting the attitude of this small group of people at Spyrock with a few people in town who were protesting about the maintainence at the school. It has nothing to do with town versus country. These same people who were helping at the Spyrock School would be helping with the maintainence at the school in town, if their kids went there. There are a number of people in town who volunteer their services to help the school.

There is an implication in protest, that the protesters expect someone else to do the work. This may be the way that it has to be for gigantic projects. Yet, it takes little effort to pick up a can or a piece of paper.

The Spyrock community has a cross section of the world in it. We have people here who, if they disappeared, would never be missed. There are even a few people who, if they left, most would cheer. There are others who make the world a better place to be in; who take a rock or can out of the road, who stop and help someone with car trouble. The first year that I came here, someone helped me out when my truck conked out. I will never forget the kindness of one of my neighbors when my mother was dying.

It is, of course, just a small group, but a small group can do a lot of good in this world. It's not the majority of people who make the world a better place to live in; it's those small groups of exceptional people who set an example for the rest of us. They certainly set an example for me. I was a city fellow and expected someone else to clean the streets; not me; that wasn't my job. Now I pick up cans and rocks and papers and I feel better for it.

Two people distributing tree seedlings probably do a lot more good than people just going about their business or protesting. Sometimes protests do some good, and sometimes they are just straws in the wind. Those trees are sure to add to the quality of the world.

Is it peculiar to Spyrock? Not at all. This is what the old timers say Laytonville was like in the good old days. This is also the way that lots of people in town want it to be now, and they work toward that end.

Somehow, as communities get bigger, much of that feeling of "community" goes. It doesn't have to, as people in city ghetto areas are beginning to find out. However, it's much easier to have that feeling in a community that is small enough so that people can talk to one another.

I deplore the opinion that the people in Spyrock are different from those in Branscomb, from those in town. I am disturbed when I hear people in Spyrock refer to the Rednecks in town, or those in town refer to the Dopers in Spyrock.

Making a better world means doing things. not just talking about them. The oriental proverb is very true: the greatest journey begins with a single step.

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