There they were, as if recorded only yesterday. Entries in fountain pen ink, filling a hardcover journal. Each word, each entry and each page treated like something of great significance. Graceful cursive learned in a class that was once required. Each accounting carefully noted. Each weekly roll call. The Armstrongs. The Birchers. The McGregors and the Malletts, lots of Malletts. Six of the original 44 charter members of the Mt. Lookout Grange in Mancos were Malletts.
“A motion was made to give the returned soldiers a reception and it was voted on favorably. The lecture program was interesting and lunch was enjoyed by all.” Preserved under the heading “New Business” on February 22nd 1919.
The Mt. Lookout Grange was a simple rural club where nothing was too unimportant. “Eileen Everett reported she has the rules for the baking contest to be held in Montrose during the State Grange Convention on Sept 26th.”  When the world was small, everything had weight. I envy that as I trudge through my world of abundance, mildly homesick and chronically distracted.
It is clear that my handwriting doesn’t matter to me. I can’t even read it. Shamefully, I have never attended a reception for a returning soldier. I certainly can’t even tell you if I enjoyed my lunch yesterday. I am far too busy living in another yet-to-happen moment to really taste my meal (whatever it was … I don’t recall).
I wonder if I had lived in Mancos, Marvel, Lewis or Paonia around 1919, would I have been bored out of my skull? Or would I have been happy in a life devoid of much choice – free as a bird from the burden of a worldly perspective? And is that what this trend of getting back to the land is really all about? Like the young farmers from Road G (see page 24) and the revival of the Mt. Lookout Grange (see page 34). Are they saying to the world … thanks for the gifts … but I am going back to cursive and the plow? It’s like the fish crawled out of the water, and over a few billion years made it to two feet, bought an iphone and a gym membership only to learn that it wants back in the water.
I don’t type on my Mac without longing for the Smith Corona I learned on. I prefer our beat up 1971 Ford long bed to my newish temperature-controlled Tacoma – despite the Ford’s staticky AM radio, deeply torn seats, no air, three manual gears and a top speed of 60. I close the door and my options are stripped. I wrestle a steering wheel the size of a hula hoop listening to the cowboy station through one beautifully crackly speaker and I am home. Granted, it also may help my level of contentment to know that there is a reliable truck back at the house.
So call me a pretender. Call me nostalgic. Guilty as charged. But the smell of the grange reminds me of my grandmother’s South Texas home, and my grandmother’s home reminds me of my grandfather and my grandfather reminds me of eating donuts just before we headed to his lake cabin … in the inky purple of dawn. It reminds me of when my world was small. And 90-year-old journal entries stir the same emotions. They reveal how there was a time when everything had relevance, even the rules to the baking contest, even lunch and whether it was enjoyed by all. Even the elegant longhand of the entry itself carried its own import.
(As you may have noted, we changed our name. It had come to our understanding that while the San Juans are a big reason why we live here, they are not that famous five minutes outside of the San Juans. Southwest Colorado is much easier to locate on a map. Same stories. Same photography. Same quality. Same philosophy. Same owner, publisher, managing editor and staff.) – Rick Scibelli, Jr.