From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 22 - 1/25/01
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

An Ode to Newcomers

Sublette County is changing, especially Pinedale. And new people moving here are fueling the change.

Locals have several different names for these new people: "newcomers," "outsiders," "move-ins," "transplants," or the worse one, "Californians!"

Not all change is good, and I don't like many of the changes I see occurring in Pinedale. I don't like the increasing housing costs that serve to force local people out. I don't like the increasing urbanization of our landscape and culture. I don't like the divisions along income and class I see developing in our community.

I've blamed the newcomers for a lot of these changes, and I've resented them for it.

Over the past few months, however, my resentment has melted away. Part of it has evolved into simple sadness. I doubt I can stop the change occurring here. I know I can't stop people from moving to this wonderful community. But my sadness won't allow me to let the change occur without documenting it, and mourning the "how it used to be."

Another part of my old resentment has been replaced by the simple truth that I've been unfair. Many of the newcomers moving here are great people who are simply escaping the urban jungles. I can't blame them.

Many others are people like George Funk who have worked hard their whole lives with a lifelong goal of moving to a place like Sublette County and retiring. How can I condemn anyone for this?

Finally, that last little bit of resentment has been squashed by guilt that I've contributed to something really wrong. I haven't welcomed these new people into our community. I've helped make many of them feel unwanted and resented. I've been wrong and closed minded, and most damning of all, un-western. The West has always been known for its hospitality, its open mindedness. I've forgotten that wonderful tradition.

People like Laurie Goodman, Russell Nelson and Tony Tully have all told me they feel unwelcome in this community. I know they're not alone, and it's the locals who have made them feel this way.

I've criticized newcomers for just "taking" when they come here, and not contributing to the community. But I've also contradicted myself, and have been suspicious of newcomers getting on government boards, running for public office, or volunteering in community organizations. I've made it so they can't win.

Recently, I've decided to quit looking at all the negative aspects of changes here and have begun looking for the positives. These include the new ideas and new ways of doing things that the newcomers bring with them to our community. We're becoming more diverse all the time, and that diversity can be a source of conflict, or a source of strength. I choose strength.

I don't agree with everything Mr. Funk advocates, but I want to hear what George has to say, and he should feel welcome saying it.

And I think of people like Gayle Kinnison who hasn't lived here for a long time, but has contributed so much to this community.

Don't get me wrong, my sadness over the change hasn't gone away. And I'm sure I'll use this space to wail about that change many times in the future.

But I want to live in a welcoming, open community that encourages new ideas and free speech. This means opening up to the newcomers moving here.

See The Archives for past articles.

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The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul