In town looking for a Sandpoint woman

Added: Mickey Tankersley - Date: 11.10.2021 07:27 - Views: 39593 - Clicks: 7209

Sandpoint, Idaho, hugging the edge of Lake Pend Oreille, is bucking a major demographic trend: In an era when many rural places are bleeding out, this one is holding its own. By Kirk Johnson. Articles in this series are exploring changes in American politics, culture and technology, drawing on the reporting and personal experiences of New York Times journalists around the country.

The rail is a bit of practicality on a two-lane stretch with hairpin turns; its dings attest to the lives, or vehicles, saved by blocking the way. Sandpoint huddles at the bottom, its 7, people squeezed together in a tight embrace. The West, writ large, splays out sky and earth in every other direction. But for some reason the center here is holding. Sandpoint, miles from Boise, and 70 miles from Canada, is bucking a major demographic trend: In an era when many rural places are bleeding out, this one is holding its own.

In the all-important sweepstakes of the West — where are people going, and staying — Bonner County, population 41,, beat out Denver, Seattle, Silicon Valley and other booming urban hot spots, according to census figures. Only 13 other counties in the West did better last year in the net measure of drawing newcomers and holding on to the ones it had.

In many ways, it is an unexpected accomplishment. The West has become the most urban part of the nation in the percentages of where people live, and small towns like Sandpoint are especially vulnerable to the powerful new forces blowing through the region — drought, climate change, and economic instability are all bearing down on rural western life. Last winter here in northern Idaho, drought ruined the ski season at Schweitzer Mountain just outside town. And yet, Sandpoint has survived, aling what may be a broader shift for the region.

I thought, at first, as a born-and-raised Westerner heading here for the first of several visits to try and understand why, that the reasons might be easy to find. Sandpoint is beautiful, Aspen in the panhandle, with a landscape of deepwater coolness on the edge of Lake Pend Oreille. I figured that was probably enough to draw and hold newcomers and California retirees.

Wandering through the little brick downtown on a chilly morning, though, I ran into Jennifer Pratt and a more complicated set of motivations. Pratt, 35 and full of energy, had been a store display deer at Coldwater Creek and she could have easily left Sandpoint for other opportunities. Instead, she stayed on. She downsized her house, told her family in Oklahoma that she would not be coming home, and tried something new. She named the truck Mabel. She bet her future on the challenge of delivering bouquets, and selling blooms from parking lots. But for most Westerners it starts with a journey.

She was only a few generations removed from the s handcart company that landed her Mormon grandfather in Salt Lake City as a dirt-poor teenager. She wore her fine long hair always in a bun with pins, and had been steeped by experience to a view that practicality — in stocking the root cellar with potatoes or cultivating the roses on her patio — was the recipe for a good life. And the vividness of her connection to the journey West never faded. In my work as a Times correspondent in the West, across barns, finely appointed offices and snowy silent ranchscapes, my interviews have almost always echoed an element of the things she taught me to wonder about: How did you come to be in this corner of the world anyway?

Once, on a story about grizzly bears, I met a man whose grandfather had homesteaded a ranch in the late s, alone at age 16 in one of the hardest and coldest corners of northern Montana. The boy, his grandson said, had taken the train from New York, got off at the end of the line, staked a claim and lived under a wagon through a frigid winter until a shack could be thrown together. Somehow, that boy and that family had clung to the land, and were still there. In a bar on Kodiak Island, Alaska, I sat spellbound, halibut and chips growing cold, as the bartender spun the saga of her coming into the wilderness — how she had grown up in suburban Connecticut, fallen in love and found herself in her early 20s in a cabin in the northern woods with no electricity or running water.

The guy was long gone, she said, but the land had grabbed her, and so she stayed — held fast by fate and something still more mysterious. The common thread over and over? A bold act of risk. If movement was the tidal surge that filled the West with hopefuls, then the laying down of a wager after that — trying something new rather than moving again — was the illusive force that kept them.

And then they kept betting, through losses and long odds that chased others off. Migration, for some at least, was just a prelude to the grit that really defined them. That grit — the tendency to sustain interest and effort in very long-term goals — is intimately linked to achievement, according to a growing body of psychological research.

Intelligence, it turns out, may be no more vital to future success and happiness than stubborn persistence. And over the course of several visits here, grit was easy to find. They are moving down very different new ro while staying anchored to the acre spread that their great-grandparents bought and cleared in the s. Mike Peck, 34, co-founded a company that allows contractors or hobbyists to use high-tech engraving machines for art or architecture.

Phil, 37, commutes miles a day to Spokane to a corporate job in a paper company. Dennis Pence, who founded Coldwater Creek with his former wife, Ann, in their apartment in , is also still here. The Pences abandoned urban careers in advertising and marketing, and at its height, their company employed more than people here and more than 10, around the world. Pence, 65, recently started a nonprofit group sending bags of food home on Friday nights in Bonner County with poor kids who might not get enough to eat when school is out.

And even among the more isolated or poor, risk-taking endures. Deep in the woods outside Sandpoint, I found the Jennings family in a small house with the bumptious chaos that only small children and loose-running dogs can create. Their home lacks nearby neighbors, but includes ample space for a pig and a garden. She told me that she and her husband, Silas, both in their 30s and born here, have watched an army of relatives move away for higher wages. Other researchers noted that the challenges for many rural places in the West will only increase if the drought continues.

But, he added, potent human energy is also a force of its own. As a fighter, Sandpoint has a mixed record. Timber cutting took off after that, only to shrink and all but disappear in the s — a decline that in turn bolstered the importance of tourism, but also underscored the risks of its low wages, seasonality, and unpredictability. Yet, somehow, the population continues to grow and unemployment in the county has held at 5.

Those upbeat figures are partly the result of start-up success stories like Kochava, a tech company that opened in , writing software that helps mobile apps track and measure . In jeans and two-day beards they fill the offices of a bank that blinked out of existence, leaving only the burnished wood cubicles and corporate carpet behind.

She told me the Western small-town ethos — the reason places like Sandpoint survive — might ultimately come down to putting a pebble in your shoe. Pratt said one afternoon. Her homey Mason jar vases for bouquets were stacked behind her, the fecund ferment of stems filling Mabel to the brim.

The restless impulses of the West, in movement, risk-taking and community spirit might or might not in the end sustain you. But being willing to grapple with the still hard corners of this region, without respite, is what finally tucks in any little valley town. The great emptiness out there beyond the guardrail might still win out in the end, but holding firm also counts as victory. Asment America: Sandpoint, Idaho. Supported by. Those questions generally prompt a yarn.

In town looking for a Sandpoint woman

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Early Sandpoint "Hang Town"