Other than this newspaper’s founder, Harry Marble, I don’t know if anyone else has been associated with the Methow Valley News longer than our Mazama correspondent, Bob Spiwak.
Bob has written community reports, columns and stories for the newspaper for more than 30 years (and submitted more than a few photos). He also created some independent diversions such as the Goat Wall Street Journal, and has free-lanced for other publications.
Bob has led a varied and interesting life that brought him to the Methow decades ago, before the North Cascades Highway opened. He has seen a lot of things and remembers most of them, although a small detail occasionally eludes him. He and the lovely Ms. Gloria have become fixtures of the West Boesel neighborhood along Highway 20 between Winthrop and Mazama, snugged up against Grizzly Bear Mountain, sharing the space with their domestic and wild menageries. He has an endless supply of animal stories, most of which originated on or near his property, and people stories, most of which originated in the far end of the valley that has been his personal habitat for all these years.
Bob is a natural information-gatherer, either by conversing with friends or eavesdropping on a nearby conversation or boldly asking questions to satisfy his curiosity (and ours). He has frequented the Mazama Store since it was the really old one that was succeeded by the less-old one that was followed by the somewhat-newer one that was replaced by the current one.
He has been, in no small way, a keeper of lore, preserver of memories, celebrant of personalities, guardian of ambience, chronicler of weather — and, for many years now, counter of vehicles passing by on Highway 20 on holiday weekends. Want to know the snowpack status? He’s got that too.
And then there’s SLIME (Society of Lugubrious, Indolent Mazama Entrepreneurs), the ad hoc organization of early-rising coffee drinkers who hobnob and gossip at the Mazama Store most mornings, providing plenty of fodder (credible and otherwise) for Bob’s weekly ponderings and observations.
His reports have always been entertaining, full of wry wit, intricate turns of phrase and pithy (although often tongue-in-cheek) commentary about goings on in the Mazama region — an area that, rather oddly I think, some Methow residents don’t visit all that often. Because he’s an outdoors person who spends a lot of time recreating, he can speak knowledgeably about such activities. He pays attention to the world beyond the valley as well, and finds ways to connect things going on elsewhere with our lives here.
If this sounds like a heartfelt tribute to someone who’s about to retire as a community columnist, I have to admit that it is — the second one I’ve had to write in the past few months. Bob has decided to give his computer a rest (and perhaps himself as well) while still contributing an occasional Off the Wall column to the News. His last regular column will be in the Feb. 27 issue.
Like Sally Gracie, who was until recently our Twisp columnist, Bob has become an institution in the Methow Valley — a cliché, yes, but in each case neither an exaggeration nor false praise. I started reading Bob’s Methow Valley News column more than 20 years ago, long before I contemplated being his boss some day.
So just as we sent out the call for applicants to succeed Sally, we’re now doing the same for someone to fill Bob’s snowshoes. My usual speech about the job goes something like this: It’s not easy to report for and write a weekly column, even about an area you know and love. You have to be naturally curious (nosy, intrusive, disruptive even) and inventive. You have to be productive, and deadlines are for real: the beast must be fed. Positive feedback is nice, but some people may not always appreciate what you write, and they likely will let you know. If you have any shred of anonymity left, that will disappear. If we haven’t discouraged you yet, and are interested in becoming our Mazama correspondent, send a cover letter, resume and representative writing samples to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O Box 97, Twisp, WA 98856. No calls, please. We need good candidates, and Mazama needs good representation.