LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: Pioneer spirit is what brought us here | SierraSun.com
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LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: Pioneer spirit is what brought us here

Katie Shaffer, Sierra Sun

About a week after the NASA space shuttle Challenger blew up in 1986, I was stopped at the downtown post office by a Sierra Sun news reporter and asked, “In light of the recent Challenger explosion, should we continue travel in space?”

Being the type of thinker who is not quick to respond, I declined to have my picture taken and my answer run in the newspaper.

But then, as is typical for me, I thought of a great answer while I was driving home. It was too late for inclusion in the newspaper 15 years ago, but seeing as I now have an opportunity to write about whatever I want each week, I thought I’d tell you what I should have said that day.

My answer would have been something like, “Yes, we should continue space exploration because we will always have pioneers in our society. If we didn’t have pioneers, none of us would be living here in Truckee today.”

And to further this idea, haven’t many of us also been brought to Truckee by our own pioneer spirit?

There was a label used for students who chose to not join a fraternity or sorority when I was in college. We were called Gosh-Darn Independents, although the first two words were slightly harsher words – more along the lines of swear words.

I have a friend who has pointed out to me that she believes that many of us who have come to live in Truckee are of that same bent – we’re all a bunch of GDI’s. I am reluctant to make sweeping generalizations about every person who lives in Truckee. We clearly are not all the same. However, I do think there’s a bit of truth to this idea.

And if we’re not Gosh-Darn Independents who have chosen a somewhat alternative lifestyle, then I do think it’s fair to say that most adults that I know who live in Truckee can be called Transplants. I do know a few people who were born and raised here, but not many.

Another interesting concept is that most of us who live in Truckee view our life as normal.

It’s normal to drive a four wheel drive vehicle and not feel guilty about it, which is different from the anti-sports utility vehicle sentiment which I hear exists in more urban areas where SUVs are viewed as road and gas hogs.

It’s normal, sometimes, to have to shovel a berm in order to be able to drive your vehicle back into your driveway if the plow has been by while you were out.

It’s normal to be able to clearly see the Orion constellation in our wintertime sky.

It’s normal to wear a fleece jacket in the evening in the summertime.

And what’s not normal, compared to those who are living in the faster-paced world of America, is that we’ve made a trade-off to live here.

If you ever compare your life to those you know who live elsewhere, your life doesn’t seem so normal anymore. We all may think our life is normal as we go about our day-to-day routines, until you look at it from where you came.

I’ve talked to people who are surprised at the notion that anyone actually lives here. I’ve definitely gotten this feeling while chatting with a few out-of-town moms at the Trout Creek pool. Once they find out that you actually live here in Truckee, and that your children attend the plain-looking school at the bottom of the hill, that’s when I start to sense that I might as well have told them that I live on Mars.

Many of us are in touch with friends and family who live in metropolitan areas, people who are living more high-powered lives. People, for instance, whose children are being drilled in vocabulary in the fourth grade so that they will do well on their SATs. I’m hopeful that by living in Truckee, we’ve somewhat succeeded in rejecting a life that is highly competitive and high strung-qualities that allow fear and doubt to creep in. Instead, I like to look out the window and remember what I’ve chosen by living here.

Are many of us Gosh-Darn Independent Transplants, brought here by a pioneer spirit, who now believe our life is normal? And are we ever so thankful for it? I think so.

Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.


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