A festive atmosphere sparked joy and warmed hearts as friends and neighbors showed up in mass to honor the grads along Glover Street Friday afternoon. While we all gathered to cheer and congratulate the 2020 grads, the jubilance was made all the more meaningful for residents who, after months social distancing, finally, saw familiar faces in an otherwise social context.
Not just a quick hello from behind masks at the grocery store or post office, a proper social outing felt celebratory. A reassuring reminder that people are eager to get out and be part of the fabric of a community, once things open up a bit more.
The parade was truly a charming event. Like royalty atop thrones, perched atop leather-backed sofas in the beds of pickups, grads donned their tassels and mortarboards in a sea of yellow and green balloons and streamers. Talk around town is that everyone enjoyed the parade so much that we all hope the district will make the parade of graduates an annual tradition. Kudos to the staff at Liberty Bell for putting together a top-notch series of events to honor and showcase our grads. Surely there are a number of unsung heroes who helped make the graduation a special and unique event.
Speaking of unsung heroes, Bruce Morrison, who himself is one of our local unsung heroes — tending the landscape of the Twisp Commons to name just one place he contributes to generously to our community — shared with me a small but warming story of how Bertha will not go hungry, thanks to unsung heroes Wilson Hicks and Clarence McCorkle.
Bertha is the creature from the deep that lives below the Methow Valley Community Center. Her appetite is as unique as her importance. If you have never heard of her, she’s not a monster to fear or a dark spirit to summon, but an old, somewhat offending, beastly cauldron of sorts that eats spent motor oil, warming the center each winter. She is a relic from a former a time, and though the center realizes how antiquated and polluting her plumes may be, we need to feed her until a viable option can be attained for heating the old building. Until then, she’s gobbling up spent motor oil locally, saving fuel costs that would otherwise be burnt hauling it off to Spokane or Seattle to a fuel recycling center.
Feeding Bertha is a task unto itself. For years, Clarence McCorkle has kept Bertha fed by utilizing a 1956 GMC fuel truck — in fact, the exact fuel truck once used to deliver heating oil to many homes throughout town. The truck lives at the community center, but recently its two-speed axle couldn’t shift out of low gear, limiting it to a top speed of about 24 mph. This didn’t sit well with the fast-paced highway commuters and travelers when the GMC had to make its trips to Winthrop to collect spent fuel oil.
Despite the farmer ingenuity and smarts of McCorkle, the axle was stuck. Morrison called on the aid of a friend and self-proclaimed “jack of all trades,” Wilson Hicks. A retired mechanic and machinist, and avid travel photographer, Hicks was able to crawl under the old truck with McCorkle and together they hot-wired and MacGyver-ed the axle into high gear. According to Morrison, “now the venerable Shell fuel truck is back on the road, still under 55 mph, but no longer holding up frantic tourists late to claim their campsites.” As for Hicks, for the old farmer and mechanic, “it was a fun greasy time” for “two old farts.”