By Thomas B. McCord
While sitting in the dentist’s chair in Winthrop one afternoon “enjoying” for the nth time the expertise of my local dentist, it dawned on me that, in this urban-wilderness interface that is the Methow Valley, we are very fortunate to have such experienced and personalized services. I recalled a prior experience, when the power went out all over the valley as we were completing a temporary crown emplacement. Dr. Harrop finished the crown fitting using a battery-powered shop hand grinder and I was able to leave on one of my many distant travels with a complete set of teeth. I had almost taken for granted having this and other innovative and personalized services.
The quality of life at the urban-wilderness interface for most of us depends very much on the availability of essential services. We here in the Methow Valley are fortunate to have many of these services of better quantity and quality than in other rural areas (or maybe some urban areas as well), provided by dedicated and caring individuals. My purpose is to point out some examples of outstanding service and encourage others to recognize our collective blessings.
These include many categories — for example, health care at the personal level in the valley, with access to regional specialties and first-class facilities within two hours drive. My experience involves Dr. Ann Diamond of The Country Clinic. She and her staff provide competent care with a very personal touch. As a physical scientist, I tend to ask technical questions and she seems happy to provide the answers, or, in rare incidences, she finds someone who can. She shares part of the credit for my still being here to write this. As for her being here, note that independent clinics in rural America are an endangered species and we may not have these very long. Hug your local doctor!
Animal care is another area. For me, Betsy Devin Smith and her Winthrop Veterinary Services have provided the same high level of pet health care for our Randy for over 13 years (his life span, so far). In this category, I must mention Rover’s Ranch, and Patrick and Kathryn. They provide not only boarding but also excellent general care when we are off to some place where we can’t take our pet. After having to evacuate their kennel two years in a row due to wildfires, using various vehicles, they invested in an elaborate animal evacuation van. They really care.
A long list
I can go on down a list that includes our local grocery stores, Evergreen IGA in Winthrop and Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp. We use both, enjoying the special excellences of each and the personal service from Sarah and Hank. The Evergreen ACE Hardware is another example, a good place to talk story with Marsha and Mason. In the old days, they would have a potbelly stove to stand around.
Sun Mountain Lodge provides jobs and a quality destination for food, lodging and meeting facilities well above what the valley might normally justify for my professional local hosting.
MethowNet Internet Service is another, for me, essential service, and Jeff Hardy provides great service to my offices here in the deep forest. The Bear Fight Institute could not exist without MethowNet’s services.
There are also the special services provided in the valley to the elderly and less fortunate. Room One, The Cove, Methow Valley Community Center and others serve this need, again, in a very personal way, involving human-to-human interactions, not just resources. If I ever get old, the Methow Valley seems a good place to be.
All these services are provided at very reasonable cost, maybe too reasonable in some cases for sustainability. Yet there is a dividend. These services and the associated people provide cascading or secondary benefits to us valley residents. For example, they enable some of us in our professional/commercial activities by providing required faculties and services to support our activities beyond what might be normally expected. This secondary effect enhances further the valley livability and enriches our culture.
These are a few examples, with which I have personal experience, but I am sure others could name their own examples. The point is that we all should recognize and encourage these, with the hope of preserving our good fortune. It is often said that the valley has attracted many very special individuals, who live here and contribute to the quality of life and local culture. I suspect that without these equally quality services, we would not have as many of these special individuals. It is a symbiotic relationship.
How much better is the Methow Valley than other locales? As a scientist, I am naturally careful about such judgments. I have lived in some very different places, but I don’t feel I have enough data to make a quantitative statement. I can say that the valley is “very good” on an absolute scale. This is enough. We should be thankful, appreciative, and hug someone or recognize an organization providing a special service. This way of life may be receding from our day-to-day experiences.
Thomas B. McCord is executive director of the Bear Fight Institute near Winthrop.