Whitesburg KY
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy

A good place to live

To the Editor:

I spent about a month out west this fall and while trying to get into Yellowstone’s higher elevations, I was blocked either by sixfoot snowdrifts or gates across the entrances. Cody, Wyoming entrance was closed and so was the Nez-Perce Highway. I circled around for the Cook City entrance but was also stopped by deep snow.

Finally I gave up and ended up in Red Lodge, Montana, about 50 miles and 8,000 feet below Yellowstone. I couldn’t help notice how similar it was to Neon, where I went to school. Both are worked-out coal mining towns, with old turn-of-the-century brick front buildings. Remnants of stores, banks, restaurants, auto dealerships, theaters and hardware stores still remain. A creek runs through it with dozens of old camp houses along its edge like Neon. There is no industry and few jobs.

What is the major difference in the two towns? It’s the attitude of its people. Every building has been converted into a restaurant, saddle shop, museum, hardware store, health food store, or florist, bicycle, canoe or backpacking shop. The shacks along the creek are converted to ski lodges in winter and fish camps in summer. Gas lights light the streets at night and the people pour outside. The night life is mainly for the older set, while the days belong to the young. It’s a Mecca for outdoor people. You can get hard-to-find bicycle or rappelling parts, or extreme canoe paddles, horseshoes and expensive saddles, guns and fancy holsters.

If you see a cowboy with a badge and gun, he really is a deputy. The classic cars there are ’60s and early ’70s Ford pickup trucks. People with money drive Broncos and International Scouts of that vintage and they are kept immaculate. I asked what drew people to Red Lodge and one gentleman said because he could leave the keys in his car and the windows down.

The hotels, lodges, and campgrounds say “pet friendly”, but I had no idea how friendly. Most have corrals or kennels out back. I was traveling with a 130-pound wolf hybrid, and they welcomed me at a really nice lodge, only asking if he was friendly. It surprised me to see dogs in the lobby and pool area of such a nice lodge.

Evidently small towns don’t allow chain stores like Hardee’s or Wal-Mart, and it makes a town nostalgic indeed.

What does Red Lodge have that Neon doesn’t? Nothing really. Its hills aren’t much higher or different from ours, except they have ski slopes and ski/ snowmobile trails. They are reasonably close to a national park, but so are we (Smokies and Big South Fork) and we have much better roads to them.

They don’t have any junk cars or derelict buildings. The people are proud of their homes and it shows. Most are small but expensive, and it’s almost impossible to find anything for sale. It’s just a good place to live, and the people have made it that.

On the other hand, this area has become a slum of crumbling buildings, junk cars and garbage. Similarly, it attracts people who want to live like that. Traditionally Letcher County has had horrible management. Our last fiscal court voted down the derelict car and house ordinance. It was the death knell for this county. They used the excuse that we already had such a law. Now years later, why isn’t it being enforced?

The present administration is no better than the last. I don’t know if they’re afraid of losing a few votes or are just too lazy. I see where Jenkins recently was forced to tear down a house that was falling into the road. Luckily, no one was killed. The store at Millstone is a death trap, yet no one will do anything. I fear that this area will never change without a change in attitude. A change in government couldn’t hurt, either.


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