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I’d like to take this opportunity – that is, a big blank white space on tomorrow’s editorial page - to thank everyone for being so kind to me since my arrival in Washington County. I rolled into town like a Beverly hillbilly from West Virginia a couple weeks ago with my two beloved dogs and a trailer full of camping gear and clothes. I broke camp at my mountain hideaway and got down here as quickly as I could, because I knew The Sun needed an editor right away, so some folks could get some time off.
My plan, for what it’s worth, was to come here and find a campsite where I and the dogs could hunker down, until I found a place to rent or buy. I’m an old infantry soldier and truly enjoy camping out. I don’t consider it “roughing it” – I like it. Plus, traveling with the dogs makes it difficult and expensive to stay at motels. I encountered a problem when I discovered that local campsites, which I had investigated on the Internet, were oriented more toward RV-type campers. All I needed was a nice little patch of woods.
I ended up staying in a motel room for five days, which I greatly disliked. One day, working at the newspaper, I noticed a small patch of woods near the office. I inquired at M&J Construction, the apparent owner of the small wooded lot. I was referred to the company owner, a Mr. Sandy Simms.
I called Mr. Simms and he asked me to come out to his farm to talk about it. I arrived at the farm and Sandy (no more Mr. Simms, he said) welcomed me to his beautiful homeplace. I learned that Sandy was an artilleryman in the Korean War. Since I’m an Army vet myself, we had something to talk about.
Sandy would hear nothing of me using the backlot of his construction company as a campsite. He said he had a lot of other places where I could set up a basecamp. He toured me around his farm on an ATV and we both admired the incredible variety of trees on his property’s gorgeous rolling hills. Sandy offered me a campsite on his farm, but said he had another place in mind that might be perfect, due to its proximity to the newspaper office.
Sandy said he had a houseboat on a small lake near Springfield. He said I could camp out there for a few weeks until I get a house. He said the boat needed some sprucing up, but that it would be a good place to camp out. Amazed at Sandy’s generosity, I bid him goodbye and, still very unfamiliar with the area, went looking for the boat.
After taking a wrong turn and getting directions, I found the boat on a beautiful, little lake surrounded by wheat fields. It has a nice wooden deck where it’s docked. The boat needs some cleaning up and minor repairs, which I’m gladly taking care of. I enjoy fixing things. The houseboat’s been the perfect place for me and the dogs to settle in a little bit and allow me to get to work at the newspaper. The vessel will be ship-shape and prepared for inspection soon. Thanks, Sandy.
Of course, I could not leave my dogs alone at the boat during the day. The Sun’s general manager and dog lover, Shorty Lassiter, let me set up a kennel in her backyard as a “doggie day care.” It’s great to not worry about the dogs during the day, and I think they’ve been getting some treats, because they won’t touch their dog food anymore. Thanks, Shorty.
There are several reasons I choose to live in a small town. People know each other and care about each other. According to my own experience, generosity, like Sandy’s and Shorty’s, is more the norm in a small town like Springfield.
I was so gratified and humbled to receive so many visitors at the open house we hosted at the newspaper office. I’ve been greeted quite kindly at all the meetings I’ve attended and been offered assistance from too many people to count. I’ve lived in many places and the friendliness and warmth of Washington County is quite special.
This is the kind of community in which I want to live and be a part of – where people work hard, have faith and follow the Golden Rule, have a strong sense of community and welcome others into their community. I can only hope and pray to have enough time left in this world to repay and “pay forward” all the hospitality and kindness.