Does where we live affect who we are? I think the nature of a region can shape the character of its residents just as much as the activities of the residents can alter the face of the land.
The geography and climate of a region affect the lives of its residents every single day of their lives. After a generation or two, these influences will percolate into the core of their habits and attitudes. People who live in climates with a harsh winter soon learn not to put things off for too long. People who live in crowded cities learn to jealously defend their space.
Eastern Oregon offers a great deal of space for a very few people. As a result, people in eastern Oregon learn to rely upon themselves to a degree that might seem bizarre to an outsider.
Let me tell you a story.
Some years ago, a man who was not young was breaking a colt for my parents. As sometimes happens the horse threw the trainer who landed badly and severely injured his neck. Bracing his cracked neck as well as he could, the rider made his way to his car (a 1950 Dodge sedan with a column shift that had a bad habit of popping out of gear, a fact I know because I later bought that car)...
He then drove past our ranch, a fact I can forgive solely because the next adjoining ranch belonged to his daughter and her husband which he also drove past and continued for another three miles until he reached his own home where we was willing to stop and call for an ambulance to take him to the hospital.
The reasonable thing would have been to stop at the first opportunity and ask for help. No one would have criticised that and it would have been the easy thing to do.
Another story: A man was up in the hills on one of the gravel roads when his horse trailer had a flat tire. In the process of changing the tire, the trailer fell off the jack and crushed his hand. He couldn't unhook the trailer from the truck with only one good hand and there was no telling when the next vehicle would pass that spot so he walked seven miles back to a paved road. When someone expressed surprise at his fortitude in walking that far while injured, he replied \"Well, what else are you going to do?\"
Sometimes this kind of behavior can seem reasonable and sometimes it may appear carried to extremes. But none of us are smart enough to always be able to figure out the proper response from first principles. Our daily life feeds us lessons and we use these lessons to fashion our habitual responses to new events. This land is so sparsely populated that it is easy to find oneself in trouble when no help is available. There is some wisdom in being prepared for that circumstance before it arises.
A land like ours teaches us not to rely too much on our fellows. Not that they would refuse assistance, quite the contrary, but often there is no one there. It does not make anybody better or worse than anybody else. Things which are appropriate behavior here would be inappropriate in Times Square and vice versa.
It takes years before these influences dominate but geology and climate exert their influence all day, every day. Two weeks in eastern Oregon will not make a resolute pioneer of anyone, but it might change you just a little bit. How much and in what ways will be unknown until you make the journey. The reason for travel is to give ourselves opportunities to grow and expand in ways we never would at home.
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