PAT NEAL: Getting along in the country

AN AWFUL LOT of city folks are moving to the country these days and they want to know how to get along with the country folk.

This can be a problem.

City folks want to make the country like the city they escaped.

Country folks want the city folks to just leave things well enough alone.

Each views the other across a deep divide of mistrust, envy and fear.

Often for no good reason.

It’s really pretty easy to get along in the country by just observing three simple rules: Shut up, drive slow and mind your own business.

The simple fact is that the city folks and the country folks are all the same critter, just different.

Just because the country folks have moss growing on their welcome mat doesn’t mean they don’t want visitors, no.

It just means the welcome can be mighty wet.

Country folks generally have a pot of hot coffee on for visitors and a good hot meal to go with it.

Sometimes the food can be a little strange.

We might have clams for breakfast and hotcakes for dinner. Deal with it.

A good rule of thumb for city folks to observe might be for city folks to observe caution when a country folk urges the visitor to try some tasty wild mushrooms they just picked.

Still, mushroom picking is a good way to supplement the grocery list with wild food that is free for the gathering.

That was my excuse anyway before I was sucked into a neighborhood discord of drama and intrigue for which I was in no way responsible.

I was just minding my own business, driving slow and not talking to anyone.

As I neared a forest that held the secret mushroom patch, I came around a bend in the road to observe a stand-off between a native of the country and a newcomer.

There, sitting in the middle of the road with its back to me sat a huge bear staring at a llama not 50 feet away. I stopped.

Seeing llamas in the wild is not unusual in the lower Hoh River country. It was wrong of me to tell the tourists the llamas were actually genetically modified elk.

I know that now.

How these exotic animals have survived in a rainforest full of bears and cougars for years on their own is a testament to just how tough these animals are.

Llamas can weigh more than 400 pounds and the one standing in the road staring down the bear was that big or bigger.

The bear was just as big as the llama.

There’s no telling how long the stand-off might have gone on if I had not happened along.

After a few seconds the bear looked around, saw me and melted into the thick brush on the side of the road.

The llama took off running down the road like there was a herd of bears after it.

I waited a bit so as to let the llama calm down but it didn’t.

Down the road a bit further I encountered a family of friendly mushroom pickers that the llama had barely missed as it galloped frantically by.

They wondered what I did to the llama.

Another mile down the road I met a fishing guide that had narrowly avoided a head-on collision with the llama.

He asked what I did to the llama.

This is how rumors get started.

That’s life in the country.

Shut up, drive slow and mind your own business and you can still get in trouble.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected].

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