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Hello? Is anyone out there?

August 18, 2005

As I was making my way around the neighborhood this morning, I stopped at Sharon’s blog and read about the Schwan’s guy. Which made me oddly reminiscent of the two longest years of my life.

When I was in the 5th grade, my dad accepted a job transfer to run the sawmill in Reserve, NM. Now I know that probably none of you know where that is, so let me illustrate:

You’ll see that it’s not even bolded on this map. However, if you look at most atlases, it is on there because it’s the county seat. If you don’t know where it is, you’ve probably never been there, and don’t say, “oh I might have driven through there.” No, you haven’t. No one goes through Reserve, you drive to it. Reserve is one of those little Mayberry type towns, where the Sheriff is also the Mayor, the Judge and the Newspaper Editor. Well, maybe not that bad, but the population of the town and surrounding area: 500. It’s a rancher’s town. Pretty much everyone is either a rancher or the offspring of a rancher, and there are two main families that comprised most of the population, and it seemed like everyone was someone’s cousin. The mommas do let their sons grow up to be cowboys, and unless you’re not from there, chances are, you’ll never leave. There are two gas stations, two restauarants, a hotel, a post office, a family-owned grocery store, a newspaper, a 2-cell jail, and an arcade.

There is one teacher for each grade, and my 5th grade class was about 18 kids. There were 9 left by the time they graduated high school. There was one school bus that drove around to pick up the kids that lived outside of the town limits, and one school bus that picked up the kids that lived within the limits, although the town was so small that most of those kids walked or rode their bikes to school anyway.

We lived five miles out of town. Our nearest neighbor was a quarter of a mile away. We lived in the middle of the log yard, so during the winter when the saw mill cut back production, log decks would stack up around our house so bad that you couldn’t even see it anymore and it was like navigating a maze to get to it. We’d have to tack arrows to the decks pointing people in our direction to find us. I remember my brother being concerned that Santa Claus wouldn’t find us one winter. It was very isolated and yet not very private. Everybody knew everyone else’s business. If you sneezed, everyone knew it before someone said “bless you.” In fact, the year my dad decided to surprise my mom with a new car, she knew about it before he even drove off the lot in Snowflake, AZ, three hours away. We had no TV reception, and there was no radio. The best shot at hearing the news was to pick up a copy of the Albuquerque Journal that was generally a day old by the time you got it. The local paper only came out once a week and was six pages.

Every two weeks, we would go grocery shopping in Silver City, about 2 hours south, and it was a big deal to be out and amongst strangers for a change. Plus, we got really excited about being able to spend our hard-earned allowance at Wal-Mart, or as we called it, Wally World. Other than our frequent road trips up to Flagstaff, this was the only time that we ever left Reserve. It was miserable. What today’s moms call “play dates” with other kids were frequent, as were afternoons at the arcade. We didn’t have a neighborhood to ride bikes around in, so we had to make our own fun by digging tunnels in the sand pile in the lot next to us or catching frogs by the river.

The other exciting thing that we looked forward to was our monthly visit from the Schwan’s guy. This was our only other opportunity at having contact with the outside world. Schwan’s day was a big deal at our house. It wasn’t just the guy in the big yellow truck coming to deliver us ice cream. He was our friend. He would come in, my mom would make snacks and coffee, he’d sit and visit with us. We’d ask about his wife and kids, we’d share pictures, he’d tell us what movies were out on VHS and if they were any good, so we knew what to buy. We made him Christmas cookies, we drew him pictures, he really was our friend. He’d leave us with our few gallons of ice cream, some chicken kiev, and frozen vegetables and go on his way.

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