About Craig and Caring

coal keeps lightsProblems abound in my small town. On every block, small black-and-white signs promoting coal reflect our threatened economy. Houses stand empty; for-sale and for-rent signs decorate neighborhoods. Our schools lose students, and teacher turnover is high. Too many families exist on incomes below the poverty level; too many children go to school with unattended medical and dental issues.

Even the sidewalks have given up.

But it’s my town.

A banner from Trapper Coal Mine and a woodcarving of a miner from Craig’s annual Whittle the Wood contest stand outside our courthouse.

After Joel and I retired, we were asked, “When will you be moving?”

Not whether we’d be leaving, but when.

We’ll be staying.

Last summer, I was encouraged when I read the words of a young resident who volunteers for a local non-profit that works with at-risk teens: “I feel I should give back to my community,” she told a newspaper reporter, “It’s been good for me, and I want it to be good for others.”

My husband has long acted on his belief that if you enjoy living where you do — whether its a farming or ranching area with far-flung neighbors, a small town, a suburb, a row house in a large city — you should help care for it so it continues to be a place you choose to call home. When we married, watching Joel work to improve our community, I adopted his belief.

Fortunately, most residents share our conviction. They provide transportation to medical appointments for those who can’t drive themselves, buy band instruments for students who can’t afford them, and cook free lunches and dinners twice a week for anybody who shows up. They created and continue to maintain a colorful garden that welcomes visitors to town. They clean up the Yampa River, staff the Food Bank, assist victims of abuse, and maintain mountain trails.

In addition, they open their wallets to help neighbors in need and keep non-profits afloat, giving to United Way so generously that Craig’s donations are in the top 10% per capita in the nation.

These folks neither ignore Craig’s problems nor move away from them. They serve our town because they see the same positive things about life here that I do: light traffic, an easy-going pace, the grandeur of the mountains and the respite they provide when we go to them, the unrestricted river that rambles by, the parks well used and maintained on a modest budget, business owners who greet customers by name, drivers who wave, neighbors who chat. And an ice cream truck that roams our summer streets playing Jingle Bells.

In the aftermath of Christmas and on this New Year’s Day, let’s resolve to list the gifts we could give our communities during the coming year — and check it twice.

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52 thoughts on “About Craig and Caring

      • I thought my family would live in Utah forever; it was so embedded there. Then the steel mill where Dad worked shut down and there were no others jobs to be had in Utah Valley. Then Wyoming opened an iron-ore mine, and as Dad said, “We have to follow the job, fellers.”

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  1. It is the ideal, for many, to live in such a town, myself included. Here on Vancouver Island we have Chemainus, a few years ago when the mill closed, the people rallied, refused to let it die, created world class murals, now it is a hub for tourists and theatre goers, yet still has bitty town charm, (and a really yummy bakery) Other small towns have followed Chemainus’s lead. This province has appalling child poverty to, amid so much plenty. Good luck to the good people of Craig!.

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  2. I’ve often wondered why mayors and city councilors, governors and county and parish officials continue to rest on their laurels when their economies are going so well. Nobody seems to be thinking long term. Then when the good times are not rolling anymore, they get desperate. They’ll take the first thing that comes along. That’s why towns, cities and states end up at the mercy of companies and giant corporations who do not have the best interest of the communities in mind. This was how Detroit ended up being Detroit.

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    • You’ve outlined what has happened in most of the small towns I’ve called home, Don: assuming the gravy train will keep on rolling. Fortunately my parents, living on Dad’s blue collar wages, made double house payments and saved in the good times, so we always managed during the bad times — though at the time I couldn’t understand why we had to be the last family I knew to get a TV.

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    • I like living here, Katie. But even with the generosity of the community, many families are struggling because of layoffs and shut downs. However, the old timers tell me that Craig has always gone through boom and bust cycles and survived them.

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  3. In the midst of desperate times of poverty and isolation you paint a picture of a close-knit community that pulls together in adversity. The multi-nationals, with federal government sanction, have destroyed so many small towns and thriving communities in our state we’ve all but given up strugglig against what now seems like the inevitable.

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  4. I certainly share your conviction to give back to our community. I am a charter member of a newly formed Lions Club here in the Bartonville area. We are currently trying to learn to walk. Our current efforts are to assess the needs in our communities. I look forward to the time when we can spread our wings and soar (or roar).

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    • Thanks, Neil. I was hoping to encourage folks to look beyond improving themselves with their New Years resolutions. I like your thought that “We’re all here together.” It implies that we should help one another along the way.

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  5. Well done. Community is essential in the West’s resource colonies. As resources dry up and the corporate money goes away, we all have to find a higher purpose for staying. We still live where people vacation. 🙂

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  6. Through our friendship, Janet, I follow your column in the Craig Daily Post, and always read the rest of the Friday news. I read other columnists, the obituaries, the police reports, the school board meetings, the struggles of the only hospital, the High School team’s scores, and much more. Besides the beauty of the landscape, I can understand why you love your little community and I wish the best to Craig’s citizens as they struggle for stability.
    Myself, I buy locally and keep adopting aged cats from our wonderful no-kill shelter. Does that count?

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    • Yes, Mary, both actions count — with double points for adopting the cats. (I saw the latest addition on Facebook and am hoping it’s a calming influence on Devil Cat.) Thank you for reading about and getting to know Craig. I read the same things you do, but probably spend more time on the police report trying to identify possible suspects by the addresses given. Stability usually returns, but usually later here than other places; and this downturn is a bit more alarming than in past years.

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  7. I do love reading your posts, Janet. I especially relate to knowing shopkeepers by name and vice versa. Such a small thing, but really meaningful. Small towns do have many advantages, though not as easy for those having to travel for work.

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    • You’re right, Barbara. Being retired me to remain in Craig and enjoy its advantages without having to either move or commute to the ski area of Steamboat Springs for a job. Thank your for reading and enjoying my blog.

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  8. My aunt lives in the town where my mother grew up. I’ve watched it struggle over the years and it is hard to see the shape it is in now. I applaud your revitalization vigor–it takes stamina to see it through.

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    • It does take stamina, Kay, and mine is no longer what it used to be, which is why I’m pleased that there are young couples in town with school-aged children who volunteer, participate, and seem determined to work toward making Craig a good place to raise their families.

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    • I like your “passion for place,” which comes through clearly in your blog. I used to try to help my students be aware of and see the importance of place; I thought a strong sense of place enriched their writing. I also appreciate your use of the word authenticity to describe Craig and its people. I wish I had thought to use it in the post. Thanks for your wishes, and I hope your New Year is everything you’d like it to be.

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  9. I have ALWAYS…ALWAYS believed that each of us working as individuals (or as a community) can make a difference in helping our community and neighbors, but lately this “ole woman” is feelin’ a bit defeated. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing or where I live or just ME becoming more “jaded”, but I’m becoming so disillusioned with “people” lately that I feel the need to move somewhere less populated and less self-centered….Long story, short: I ( a person on a limited income) live in a community of affluence and privilege and wonder how much longer I’ll continue to live here. I SO, SO love the physical environment, but am so, so tired of the “less than kind” attitude of many of the individuals moving in here. How refreshing to read about the community where you live, Janet. Kudos to you and Joel for staying and trying to make it better…. (((Hugs)))) Lucie 🙂

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    • I can tell by the delightful way you write about your home that you love where you live, Lucie. It makes me sad to know you think about leaving. Won’t your neighbors miss your walks with an inverted umbrella? I’m also sad that newcomers to the area are “less than kind,” which I read as self-centered and superior to those of us who struggle and sometimes make mistakes. Hugs to you, too, Lucie, and wishes that your New Year will be fulfilling for you.

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      • Makes me sad, too, Janet. But our “little Paradise” is quickly changing (and not for the better). If you ever have the chance to see Alexander Pelosi’s documentary, “SF 2.0” on HBO you’ll understand what’s happening to the whole Bay Area…..the Silicon Valley is quickly turning the Bay Area into a play ground for only the very rich…any hoo, don’t want to whine….just makes me so sad to see hard working people get priced out of housing and having a hard time making ends meet simply because they’re not working as a “techie” earning a 6 digit salary at one of the tech firms….Many of my retired friends are selling their homes and moving to less expensive areas. I love our little home and absolutely love living so close to the ocean and everything else, but I don’t think we’ll be able to “age here”…Where we live is exactly the polar opposite of what Craig is experiencing. I feel I’d like your “Craig”…sounds like people care about each other. We have loving, kind, caring people here, as well – we’re just getting pushed around a bit by the self-centered, arrogant dweebs, at times, and it makes me sad…any way enough “negativity”. Your story was great to read! Hey! FYI: That book that my friend rec’d called “The Right to Write” is by Julia Cameron, not Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg writes some good ones, too, but my friend said that she actually took one of Cameron’s courses years ago and she’s great. I started reading it. I like it. PS I did post a picture of our living room with our Xmas decorations. It’s hard to see my village and other stuff, but you can get a feel for how much I LOVE the holiday when you see my photo!!!! (I just LOVE Xmas!) Happy New Year to you, too! (((Hugs))) Lucie

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      • While living in Carson City for 23 years, I formed an attachment to the bay area that remains strong. When people talk about New York, Chicago, LA, I quietly say my favorite city is San Francisco; a statement that is usually met with approval. I visited it, Oakland, and the surrounding regions often, so I am sorry to hear what is happening, though it had already begun before I left. I have dear friends in Aspen, born and raised there, who had to sell their home and move when they retired because they couldn’t afford to live in an area they loved. Their situation and yours is so sad. I’ve read one or two Goldberg books on writing and enjoyed them, so assumed The Right to Write was one of her recent books. I’m unfamiliar with Julia Cameron, but will look for her book. I also went to your blog, saved reading it for tomorrow’s treat, but looked at the photograph. Your Christmas home is fabulous: warm, welcoming, and Christmas head to toe. You do indeed love the season. I’ll bet I find out why when I read the accompanying post. Be happy, friend. Janet

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    • How kind of you, Joanne. I’m glad you enjoy my posts. For various reasons, I had to cut back on my commitments a couple of months ago. So I reduced my posts from weekly to the 1st and 15th of each month and cut back on commenting as well. Thanks for hanging in with me. My head is above water now and the world is much brighter, especially with comments like this one.

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  10. Hi Janet,

    Our small town of Price reminds me a lot of Craig. It truly is the people who make the place, and we have plenty of good folks here.
    But I do have a complaint: sometimes the people who live in small towns have to step up and shop local boutiques, patronize restaurants and the like. Whenever a new shop, restaurant or bakery tries to make a go of it, some people lament that they “can’t afford it”. But then those same people have two snowmobiles, several ATVs and a large motor home! So I guess it’s just a matter of priorities.
    For the most part, we really love Price. Just wish we could sustain a couple of good restaurants and a few places to shop other than WalMart!

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    • I, too, see similarities in our two towns, Rita, and I’m sure you have good folks there. We, too, have those who shop 100% on line, go to Steamboat to eat, and complain about prices in our local stores and restaurants, but I like to think they are in the minority. I hope you’re doing well.

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