A WALLOWA GAL'S STORY
By Katherine Stickroth
The title of this column is derived “tongue-in-cheek,” in that I have lived in Wallowa County for only twenty months and have no claim to ancestry or longevity that would qualify me as a true Wallowa gal.
My friend Janie Tippett laid this moniker upon me. After pulling up to her house for a visit last summer, she came out and cheerily greeted me as I stepped out of my truck, “You’re a Wallowa gal!”
Puzzled, I asked, “What do you mean?”
She pointed to my rear fender above the wheel. “See that manure splashed on your truck? Every Wallowa gal has that. You must have driven through cow pies while coming up the drive.”
I burst out laughing. This city girl from the South had different ideas about how to recognize whether I belonged to a place. But apparently, in Wallowa County, once one is baptized with the excretions of a bovine creature, she is “in.”
“This is different!” I thought. I’ve said that countless times since I landed here.
Each morning I open the shades and am greeted by Chief Joseph Mountain rising outside my bedroom window. I pull open the living room curtains and Ruby Peak says, “Good morning!” Countless times my first words of the day are, “I can’t believe I get to live here!”
I walk to my neighbors’ house down the street, where we discuss that day’s plans. They are included in my gathering of elder friends I could collectively call Wallowa Dad and Wallowa Mom. The wisdom they have shared with me has laid the foundation for my quick assimilation into Wallowa Life. Their lessons have included how to drive safely on snow and ice, how to plant a garden, and the intricacies of fence repair, including building rock jacks.
When I walk the sidewalks of Enterprise or Joseph, I am greeted by new friends I now count as family. I meet newcomers with the most unusual stories of how they “landed” here.
January 2016 will mark two years since I began calling Wallowa County my home, and I wouldn’t trade anything for my experiences in meeting a new landscape, a new culture and especially new people who think so differently from what I’m accustomed to. In this column, I will be sharing my encounters from these past months and the days to come with a sense of delight and wonder, seasoned with humor and a slight Southern accent.
Hope you come along for the ride.
Originally published September 2, 2015 in the La Grande Observer newspaper. Reprinted with permission.