Just another day in rural Oregon


From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome.

I needed postcard stamps, and our local post office had sold out. The mail clerk commented that it was unusual to run out of them. Maybe a lot of people are mailing postcards? Maybe on March 15? Anyway, with tears in my eyes, I drove off into the sunset looking for another place to buy postcard stamps.

The Veneta post office is yuge compared to our little P.O. in Noti, but still pretty cozy. I arrived to find a large family waiting to the side while two family members were talking to the clerk. One spoke Spanish and the other translated. I started visiting with one of the women waiting, who also knew English; just stuff about the weather and the usual waitin’ around babble. The two family members joined them with paperwork and it was my turn. Dang, they were also out of postcard stamps! But, the clerk called for the person who controls the stash, and said my stamps would just be a minute or so.

Meanwhile, a woman about my age came in. She glanced at the family, parked next to me at the counter and slammed down her purse. Then she glared at the family and sneered, then rolled her eyes at me as if I should be as disgusted as she obviously was. She muttered something as well, but thanks to my hearing issues, I didn’t hear what. My stamps were taking a while so I stepped back while the Nasty One got a money order and looked back at us with pure malice as she stormed out. I chatted more with the woman and smiled at the kids, wishing I knew how I could help these people, or how to even ask. I don’t even know what one does at the post office that has to do with being from another country. I did notice one family member showing the clerk her passport.

Finally my stamps were found, and as I paid the clerk, an old guy came roaring in and butted in front of me, yelling, “CAN I ASK YOU PEOPLE A QUESTION?” The clerk said of course, what, and the man said, “HOW COME YOU DON’T FLY THE AMERICAN FLAG HERE ANYMORE? WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?” I glanced back at the family and they seemed to have huddled closer together.

The clerk began to explain that they just hadn’t had time yet this morning to hang it, trying to assure the angry man that it was normally up by now (it was about 9:30 a.m., they open at 9). I didn’t stay to hear his response, I’d heard enough for one day. I said goodbye and good luck to the family, and left.

Rural Oregonians traditionally don’t trust anyone who isn’t white. That’s not news. When Marvin and I first arrived (by wagon train) 40 years ago, I felt the culture shock. We joked that we better get a gun and a pickup truck right away or we’d never fit in even though we were the right color. To this day, I don’t get people who feel so threatened by someone who doesn’t look or talk like they do. But I do get why these folks in our communities are loudly expressing their hatred and disgust more today than this country has seen in more than 50 years.

So now I’m stamping my postcards and sharing them with friends. I only asked my friends to be sure and mail them on March 15. I didn’t suggest what to tell our new president.

But I know what I will tell him.




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