As things on your mind tend to turn up unexpectedly in your real world, I found “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse,” a Little Golden Book, at the Thrift Store. Not having read the book for decades, I was curious to revisit the story line.
The first thing I noticed was that the book bears a copyright of 1961, so it’s been around for a few generations. The second thing of note was that this copy of the book was in cahoots with McDonald’s. It came in a Happy Meal with a “Collect All 5” theme. The other four: The Monster at the End of this Book, The Poky Little Puppy, Tom and Jerry’s Party, and Benji. The 1982 promotion was a clever marketing tool to bring mom, dad and the kids back to McDonald’s at least once a week for five weeks to get a Happy Meal with the next new book. (I think I read about this kind of thing in “Fast Food Nation.”)
The book begins, “Annie Mouse lived quietly in the country.” Her friend, Melissa Mouse, came from the city to visit. She was unimpressed with Annie’s humble lunch saying, “In the city I dine on spice cake and wine … Oh, Annie, won’t you leave this dull country life behind and come to the city with me?” She did, but soon, scared by dogs, cats and vacuum cleaners, Annie ran and ran until she was back safe in the quiet green country. She told her friends, “I would rather lead a simple life than dine on riches and live in fear.”
About once a month, I have an hour-long phone conversation with a dear friend who moved from Port Townsend to Wilmington, North Carolina, after retirement. She came to see me here in Mazama before she moved and thought we had picked a perfectly lovely place to retire and ride off into the sunset on our horses. Since that visit, in addition to all the beautiful things of the valley, she’s heard about the extremes — everything from monster snow, wildfire licking at our heels, yellow skies, to minus-24 degrees, and 110 degrees. Meanwhile, she and hubby are out on their boat, walking on the beach, and basking in the warmth of a moderate climate.
During our recent visit, she asked, as she always does, what’s been going on out here in our paradise. I launched into a diatribe about the wrath of Looney Creek since it lost its way after the Cedar Creek Fire. It has created its own channels and distributed debris and mud across the landscape. The little ditch that kept the fire at bay in 2021 is now filled with sediment and creating a problem for everyone downstream from Looney. How did the ditch go from being our savior to our nemesis?
My friend said, “Did you ever imagine that you would be dealing with these kinds of things?” No. A hard no.
However, even though life here is not always “simple,” there is beauty in the simplest of things. I love to be able to drive right up to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the hardware store without driving in circles looking for a parking space or paying an exorbitant parking fee. It is a pleasant feeling when the person at the post office calls you by name and asks, “How are things in Mazama?” There’s comfort in knowing what your favorite item on the menu is at each eatery. There’s nothing quite like going to an intimate theater where you can have a glass of wine, kibbitz with the owners, sit back and watch a current movie, whether a blockbuster or an indie. A sea salt baguette, a molasses cookie, organic salad greens, or a take and bake shepherd’s pie are a five-minute drive away from home. My son who lives in San Francisco spoke during his last visit of the beauty of having the Mazama Store so close, when in the city, it can be a challenge to find a good espresso and almond bear claw. Each of our three burgs has an assortment of scrumptious baked goods and local coffee.
The birds singing, the wildflowers blooming, and the grass turning green remind one to take a deep breath of fresh spring air and enjoy the simple, albeit sometimes complicated, life in the Methow.
Question from a reader: Does anyone out there know the origin of the name of Lucky Jim Bluff?