By Ashley Lodato
“Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends,” sings Andrew Carnes in the musical Oklahoma. And if Saturday night’s street dance in Winthrop was any indication, the agronomist and the stockman in the Methow Valley are getting along just fine. The cowboys were dancing with the farmers’ daughters and the farmers were dancing with the ranchers’ gals. (And, not surprisingly, it seems to be farmers, cowboys, and ranchers who actually know how to dance, unlike, say, website designers or carpenters.) It was a perfect example of territory folks sticking together; a sign of kinship on a balmy late-summer night—the street dance an oasis of normalcy after a chaotic summer.
The street dance was held a few hours after the “jorts” contest, which I had the misfortune to miss and the sensibility not to participate in, my jorts days being so far behind me that I’m not even sure they ever existed. For those of you who (like me before Saturday) don’t know what jorts are, they’re the article of clothing formerly known as cut-offs, only tigher and shorter. In fact, the amateur fashionista might identify them as denim underwear rather than outerwear. Only the pockets hanging down below the hem give them away.
The loosely organized contest resulted in people’s choice winners of the various divisions, who then proudly walked around town displaying the denim sashes that pronounced the wearer the jazziest or the jiggliest.
I was recently talking to Susan Brown who is, among other things, the librarian at the elementary school in Okanogan. She was remarking about how you don’t really notice all the little grasses, shrubs, and other nondescript plants that carpet the hills in our area. But once they’re gone—say, burned up—and once it rains and the hillside slips away, you immediately realize what an important role they play in holding things together. Each little clump of grass and each little bush is critical to the integrity of the landscape.
Maybe it’s like that with us. Each of us holds on a little bit, doing our part to preserve the integrity of the community. Individually, the contributions are insignificant. But taken as a whole they are what hold a rural society together, grounding us, and preventing the erosion of the things we value.