No Christmas Letter – Part II?

After reading “No Christmas Letter” I realized it should have said – Part I.  I forgot to mention that in the middle of learning how to be a vendor at an Art Show, we had been approached by a neighbor to sell them our home.  Since the store was on the market, wouldn’t we like to sell our house?

Yes, we would.  At that point my best friend, partner and spouse looked at me completely dumbfounded.  Why?  I “swore” I wouldn’t sell my home before the store again.  The last time we ended up living in our fifth wheel for five years with 17 degree winters.  Not again!!!!!

Motivation to have different experiences and fresh fruit and vegetables year-round won out.  We started out negotiating for a down payment and we would carry the balance.  Then it was a little different and in the end they ended up paying cash.  That allowed us to spend September house hunting. We made one offer for a unique property but the owners decided they wanted more money, we could make all the repairs and until we had the cash from the sale of our house it would stay on the market.  It was total insult.  We outright rejected that one. We ended up looking at about 10 homes.  6 we never got a chance to look inside because they were under contract before we could get an opportunity to see it. The other four all had problems – to small, too expensive, too many repairs – until one Monday morning I got up, went to the computer to see any new listings and there it was, our new home.  I got on the phone and made arrangements to see it at 3PM that day.  That gave us little time to spare to get there.

Needless to say, it was perfect for the price, location and opportunity for Tracy to put in his lapidary shop.  No landscaping to care for because it’s all rocks.  In the meantime, we did two more shows, made more product and tried to make sure everything with the sale/purchase process were moving along as needed.

We’re about 2/3 moved into storage at the moment.  Have to get my finger checked again tomorrow (that’s another post) but the majority of it all is done.  I finished my studio and computer station today. Tracy got the financial desk, file cabinet and freezer out today.  That just leaves all the last minute furniture, two pantries and the kitchen.  We’ll start loading the trailer Friday with things we know we’re taking with us to Quartzsite.  I’m sure that will be another post as well.

Until next time – – – –

 

Moving On, Day 8

Moving on, Day 8. Got all the business banking changed today and new checks ordered.

There are so many little things to take care of I’m sure I’ll forget something. And when we got home from that adventure I was supposed to put the short ribs in the slow cooker. I forgot. So it’s out for dinner. Good thing #amwriting words are forgiveness,  compassion  and kindness.

I love a ribbon cutting

One of my favorite things to do is help people with their projects.
Whether it’s a Fire Station, Health Clinic, or Historic District, ribbon
cutting is the most satisfying outcome I can imagine. While I’ve lived in
Escalante I’ve gotten grant monies for the Fire House, the original
clinic, the airport runway, and the Escalante Show house. All except the
show house were public projects. The show house is privately owned and
operated.

When the Steed’s purchased the abandoned show house in 2013 they
envisioned they would have it open “some day” but not July, 2015. The 1938
facility had been vacated and partly torn up inside as it sat with dirt
floors for almost ten years. Tracy and I had been providing them print
services since 2010 and gotten to be good friends. When Jenifer asked me
to help her with a Grant Proposal for Rural Economic Funds, there was no
way I could say no.

With $50,000 grant award in hand, their own personal funds and a
line-of-credit they went to work to get it open by July 4th, 2015.
Husband Shannon didn’t believe it could or would happen. Jenifer and I
pressed forward . They already have several special events booked for the
venue and will continue to develop their plan of work as they get into the
winter months.

Between their Wild West Retreat, operating the Cowboy Blues Restaurant in
Escalante, serving triple the amount of bus tours and special events at
their outdoor facility, Wild West Retreat and Cowboy Cookouts will
continue to be a success. They have a plan and continue to work it. It’s
been an honor and privilege to work with them over the years. I’m looking
forward to that ribbon cutting.

Escalante Show House Close to Being Revnovated

Escalante Show House Close to Being Revnovated

Escalante Show House Before Renovation

Escalante Show House Before Renovation

3 Reasons Towns Die

Consistency – Reliability – Fairness

These are the cornerstones of a three-legged stool that constituents look to government to uphold on a daily basis.  They count on fairness to every member of the community no matter their religion, age, or family connections.  They rely on their knowledge of government and how it works that it will be reliable every day.  They depend on consistency in order to establish their own lives.  In turn they agree to abide by the rules and laws of the place they live.

Government has failed to provide all three pegs of that stool and thus citizenry are reacting.

They are moving out of towns and cities that don’t balance the stool to places that do.  And if they can’t move because of age or finances, they are demanding changes be made to once again balance government and the elected officials seem to have no clue how to fix it.

In our own town of Escalante, Utah, the stool is totally out of balance and the town council and mayor, for whatever reason, haven’t righted the stool.

First, the county school district is concerned about the declining enrollment of the schools.  Long-time residents look to blame the creation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument for the decline in the communities.  Yes, it has impacted the cattle grazing and logging and that has resulted in several cattle raising families moving to places where they are welcome.  And yes, the sawmill has closed and all those family wage jobs have gone away, and the children they supported. But that’s just one leg of the stool.

Second, the federal agencies that promote tourism are providing some jobs that could help replace the others, but they can’t replace them all and tourism based jobs are not family wage.  The same employee that worked at the sawmill now has two jobs to replace the one at the sawmill.  In addition, Payment In Leiu of Taxes (PILT) has not been increased in many years.  The town is expected to provide emergency services, water, sewer, trash without the federal government paying their fair share of the costs.  The county Sheriff is now the only  response to 911 since the city police position was removed due to finances. The lack of reliable funding for services puts the total burden on the property owners.

Third, city and county ordinances are not enforced with any consistency leaving people to conclude they don’t wish to move here until they are.  Case in point, the City of Escalante uses the State’s abandoned road facility and the state offers little or no incentive to keep it updated and in good repair.  When the wind storms of last summer took out one of the sheds the debris from was removed and the fences repaired by the state.  However, the contents of the building remain on the ground (pipe parts, old buckets, etc) to this day. The weeds are now growing up amongst them and the highway frontage lot does not say “we care about our City”.  If you drive the streets, there is no enforcement of a number of ordinances and vacant houses “For Sale”  might sell but the neighborhood is in such disrepair it reminds a lot of them of what they’re trying to escape from not a lush, small town where everyone works together.  And the disproportionate number of absentee owners because of “Holiday Home Rentals” is removing the “home town” flavor because of City Government.

The stool needs righting and placing blame elsewhere is not the answer.  The answer is here in our National Historic District Town of 750. Demand the city, county, state and federal government agencies rebalance the stool.  How?

  1. The Federal resource management agencies need to pay their fair share for upkeep and management of facilities their visitors use without cost. Fairness.
  2. The State highway department needs to find a way to transfer management of the old highway dept. facility to the city or enter into an agreement to allow the city to make proposed improvements and help pay for them. Reliability.
  3. The City needs to place a limit on the number of Holiday Homes as a percentage of the total number of homes available in the city. And they need to enforce the building codes, and other ordinances on a regular basis with the same answers for all. Consistency.

It wouldn’t solve all the problems, but it would get this small town well (and many others of all sizes) on its way to re-balancing the three-legged stool.

Until next time – – – – –

Pass It On

I have learned to listen to my dreams and premonitions. That doesn’t mean I always undertand them, but I’m not surprised when the event occurs. It was one of “pass it on” experiences.

A few days before we went travel trailer hunting I felt a vehicle accident was going to occur. I dreaded going out in the “big city” traffic and was even more worried when we actually bought a trailer and brought it home. What did the universe have in store for us? Whatever it was, I knew when I least expected it was when it would occur.

A trip to San Diego and back with the trailer resulted in no event, but the one-day adventure without the trailer to Moab did not. On the way home we’d decided to go the back way on the byways we most enjoy. A stop at the Hite overlook resulted in a visit with a pair of Ravens who got the rest of the popcorn and loved it. They are creative, fun and mate for life. Deciding he had enough pictures of the pair, Tracy and I ventured on up one of the most remote sections of highway in the U.S.

She was standing by the side of the road in front of her little red Ford Focus Wagon. The hood up, tail gate up, doors open and a jack behind the front passenger side wheel. If you didn’t notice the flashing lights you could certainly tell something was wrong. The skid marks on the rural, isolated highway implied an ugly incident and the bent and twisted highway sign appeared to have saved her life.

As we pulled up and stopped she looked scared. Should she talk to these strangers with Utah plates? Alone on a trek from West Virginia, she was on her way to Natural Bridges when she lost control, almost went in the ditch on one side, over corrected and almost went in the gully on the other albeit for the sign. Result – two tires blown out and only one spare.

She struggled in making a decision, get in the truck with strangers and try to get help or let them get her some help and stay with her broken down car alone, in the dark, with no cell service, 26 miles from the nearest town, population 215. In the end she gave us her name, cell # and other pertinent information and we set off to town. We hated to leave her there, but it was her choice and it was obvious she needed to make it.

Small rural townfolk are used to helping out at all hours of the day and night. And the tow company in Hanskville, Utah was used to calls helping tourists on their adventure around Lake Powell and the other backcrountry byways. This night was no different even if it was the full moon. They picked her up, got her into a hotel room and some folks would see to her vehicle on Saturday.

Little did she know, she was one of our “Pass It On” opportunities from our roll-over accident in 1999? Or was this for our daughter who had an incident with a U-Haul trailer and a man stopped and fixed the problem by giving her a new hitch to get her on her way, wouldn’t give her his name and wouldn’t let her pay for it? Whichever, we were glad we could help.

We headed home knowing we had two and a half hours to get to Escalante, UT. The roads were good, the full moon helped light our way, and the animals stayed off the highway. We traded text messages later that evening and she was fine. Holed up in a hotel room, car to be repaired, and on her way the next day. I reminded her that someday she’ll need to “pass it on”. Her response – “I look forward to it”. I know she will.

Until next time – – –