I recently came upon an out of area publication about our town which I found both odd and interesting. The piece was a follow-up of sorts by an out of area writer returning to see how the town had fared post the Hershey move.
He gave a fair, somewhat accurate depiction of our town from an outsider perspective. Something I would call responsible journalism, even if I did feel it was a bit slanted. He did well at quoting community members from varying locations around town. Some quotes baring poor grammar, others with extreme views.
What I found both odd and interesting was the return and its timing. We’re a couple years shy of the 10 year anniversary. There isn’t talk of the plant returning to the US, not to mention our zip code and for the most part, I believe we’ve moved on.
In truth, as the local reporter, the piece upset me a bit. Perhaps it’s because I’m not just the local reporter but a community member. Maybe because I did not identify with the demographic he described our town to be. ‘Conservative’ is accurate, that’s fair. However we are more than a town of people with poor grammar, sitting behind a bar reminiscing on the ‘old days’ and bitterness.
Just typing that last word I wonder; does my disapproval of this viewpoint make me seem bitter. I hope not.
Granted it does not accurately represent myself or a number of friends in my circle, but he didn’t find us on that day as he wandered around town. He found the right voices to fit the mold of his piece.
Last week as I drove into work, I was stopped by cars towing campers, wagons with rooftops piled with camp supplies and the downtown area streets scattered with people meandering in bohemian type dress.
Now granted, this town hosts its fair share of diversity and each of those items is not an oddity to anyone who lives here. Last week however the number of these instances closely rivaled that of the horse trailers, cowboy hats and wrangler jean-wearing norm that our town is commonly known for.
It is after all known as the Cowboy Capital of the World for good reason.
This crowd however wasn’t here for a rodeo. It was a quick reminder that Symbiosis was in town.
As I made the connection I wondered about the reporter who had visited a few days before and what, if at all, his piece might differ at this sighting. Then I thought to the old cowboy stooped at H-B Saloon and the grumbling he might have over a dreadlock, sandal-clad visitor grabbing a coffee as they pass through.
I happen to like Symbiosis and the diversity it brings to our small town of 21,000. I’ve never actually attended the event, but I have given it thought.
A few friends shared conversations they had heard from others, voicing disapproval and disdain. Words and opinions which would support the ‘conservative’ stance of the out of towner piece I read.
It’s no secret; I’m not a native of Oakdale. I am a native of California, more specifically San Francisco. I chose this town for the quality of life it would offer a young family, not to mention the quaint hometown feel it still fostered when I moved here in 2001.
As a local reporter, I feel lucky to know more about this town, than the passer by. To know the generosity of so many when a family, child or even animal might be in need. To know how a community rallies to support its young and is filled with Service Clubs who keep them high priority. Oh and then there’s the streets lined with flags on notable holidays, yep, that makes me proud too.
My hope is that our symbiosis visitors were treated to just as much kindness, smiles and head nods as the cowboys who find their way here in early spring or the kindness the out of town reporter received during his impromptu visit.
In short, we’ve grown significantly since 2001 when I unpacked my first box in my first Oakdale home. We’ve let go of what was and embraced what now is. After all, who doesn’t love the Sconza half off candy sale?
And yes, I too miss the scent of chocolate lingering in the air, but who wouldn’t.
All and all, I’m just grateful. For the opportunity to see beyond the hats and boots, to have the knowledge of the kind hearts whose grammar may not be perfect and to know that despite any slant another may feel necessary to paint a picture of where I call home … It’s one pretty unique and special place.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.