Friday, October 2, 2015

I Love Small Town Charm

The main event that I look forward to all year is the trout dinner in our small town. It’s actually the only event, but not only is it the  best trout I’ve ever had, it’s the whole idea that I love. The trout is raised by the White family—that’s their name. They’ve lived in this town since the very beginning back when Barnard White and one of his buddies, Joe Crapo thought the lush valley was worth checking out—that was back in 1860 when the valley was also loved and lived in by a peace loving band of Shoshone. The white guys, including Barnard White thought the Shoshone wouldn’t mind sharing their lush valley, but they were wrong about that. There were skirmishes here and there, a few horses stolen and one white settler was shot with an arrow, but just like everywhere else in the US, the natives were eventually pushed out and so that’s why I get to live in the lovely little town and stand once a year in a line that runs the length of a football field, chatting with total strangers who come from all over the state to stand in line too. Sure they could go out to a restaurant and for the close to the same price, get pretty much the same thing, but that’s nothing like paying twelve bucks and sitting on a metal picnic table next to people you’ll never see again. 

The local DUP women (that’s daughters of the Utah Pioneers) are at the beginning of the line with a beautiful pieced and handmade quilt. I confidently crumple my tickets I’ve bought—convinced that this trick will aid me—clearly it’s my year to win. I’ve entered for the last eight years and it’s only been the last two years that I’ve even wanted the quilt, and this one is perfect for me. I’m sure that the Universe will recognize my worthiness and reward me. Years ago raffles came under fire as a form of gambling, and hence illegal in the state of Utah, so most places still hold raffles, but sell a piece of taffy for the price of a ticket to get around the law. That’s another thing I like about this whole day—there’s no pretense. Even though these women, look like very respectable law-abiding women—church goers even, they don’t look for any loopholes, they just sell the tickets illegally. I admire that. 
DUP museum in Paradise

I hand my money to a few other women—old friends for the most part. Now there’s hope when I’m handed a sturdy paper plate with my plastic utensils. Then, a string of about eight men manning the massive grills lined with butterfly trout fillets frying in pools of butter. The first man at the grill is Jon White himself, son Barney White, the man who began the trout farm, and grandson of Barnard White, or is there one more Barnard White in that line? Not sure. Next to him, is his brother. In rural Mormon Utah, it’s nearly always women who cook, plan, organize and then clean up nearly all major church and community events so, it’s especially nice that for this event—it’s all men cooking. Here there’s only one woman serving food and all she’s doing is handing out pats of butter.
I don't know any of these people
Not Jon (he's at the opposite end)

Back to Jon White. I’ve known Jon a long time. We used to be on the Paradise Planning and Zoning together. Jon is a big guy, a very big guy and his voice and personality are commanding. When he walks into a room, he pretty much stops whatever else is going on. He’s a walking encyclopedia for the town of Paradise. He knows the history, the layout, where all the seams of clay and gravel are. He knows who owns chickens, and whose dog is keeping folks awake at night. He has strong opinions, but loves the town possibly more than anyone else. In the meetings, he could do it all, as smart as he is, but he liked us all to contribute what we thought about septic tanks, lot sizes, commercial zoning, fence lines, and dog kennels. 

I was the only woman on the board and though I have strong opinions too, I was no match for Jon. But he always asked what I thought. Once in a very serious meeting, he said, “What do you think Carole, Gene? Amazing, this man really does know everything even my middle name. “How in the world did you know my name is Carole Jeanne (Jean)?” I asked. 

“I didn’t,” he said grinning. But I do know your name is Carole and his name,” nodding to the man on my right, “is Gene.”

Since then every single time he sees me, which isn’t often, he shouts. “Jeanne, how are you doing?”
So as I hold my plate in front of him waiting for the trout that bears his name, he says, “Jeanne, it’s been a long time. How are you?” And I just nod. “Great, I’ve been great.” 

And even though I wait well into the night for the phone call congratulating me on winning the quilt raffle to no avail, I still love this town.

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