I’ve lived all my life in small towns, some barely a wide spot in the road. The advantages of this were many. Too many stars to count. Entire trails to myself. Room to be my dorky self. There were two chief disadvantages though–nothing but iceberg lettuce in the “store” and a limited dating pool.
It could go two ways. In the first, somewhat better scenario, I would arrive, my truck piled with all my earthly belongings and move into whatever trailer the national park had deemed habitable for seasonal employees. News spread through the local male population like wildfire. A new woman had appeared! Men showed up out of the woodwork to invite me on hikes, to watch them shearing sheep (true story) or to explore caves. With all this bounty, it was easy to believe I was the most beautiful woman in the world.
In the other, grimmer scenario, smugly married female co-workers pondered my limited choices. I was obviously a threat, since their beer-bellied husbands were such prizes. I had to be paired off! But in these desperate towns, there were no single men! What to do? They racked their brains. Usually they came up with some less than desirable offering, like the time they thought of X, who “used to beat his wife, but is single now and maybe has learned something.” No thanks!
Small mountain towns are great for adventures, and that’s usually what I did, adopting a male friend or two but rarely committing. In small towns, everyone who has lived there forever has a history and a string of ex-girlfriends. You hear about their pasts and their mistakes, something that wouldn’t happen in a big city. The pressure is on, too. When I met my future husband, his loyal friends first stared with narrowed eyes, implying that I would have to move away if I did him wrong. Then they warned him not to marry me, worrying that I would keep him from his playtime on the ski slopes. They were proven wrong both times and now love me, but it was an initiation I had to pass.
I hear it’s bad on the other side of the tracks also. My husband tells me (and I think he’s joking) that he was ready to import a Czech bride or put an ad on Match.com. I laugh when I think of what it might say. “Must love three large dogs and be prepared to be a ski widow.” My own ad would be equally frightening: “Must be okay with me disappearing into the backcountry without much advance notice.”
I found my husband in a town of less than a thousand, but finding him took forever, many small towns, many unsucessful hikes, many men thinking I was “too independent.” I don’t believe in fate or that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes you just wash up in the same place as someone you can love because you have tried everything else and this place seems to work. So to all those long-lost guys who helped me learn to jumar, who played their guitars for me somewhere in the sagebrush, and who are out there still looking, I hope you stumble upon your own mountain girl soon. She’s out there, trust me on this.