As good as it gets |

As good as it gets

“Would you and Orllyene like tickets for the annual Friends of the Library Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner?” Sherry asks. Sherry is our Smith Valley Librarian, and is always doing nice things for her patrons. The last time Orllyene and I attended a Smith Valley shin-dig, was back when Wendell Willkie was running against Truman (or was it Dewey?)

Orllyene and I dress up in our finest bib and tucker and go to the community hall. The place is packed. Almost everyone in Smith Valley, who has a library card, is there.

Wynne waves at us, and we join her and Steve. Minutes later, Melinda and Wade show up, and come on over. This is great.

I can hardly wait to hear about Melinda’s recent skiing trip to Switzerland. Melinda’s eyes light up when I mention it. “It was fantastic. One day, we had a chance to choose a ski run that would bottom out in France, Italy or Switzerland. Isn’t that amazing? Another time, I was really bummed out, because the fog was so bad. Then when we got on the gondola, the fog cleared as we ascended, and we spent the day skiing in brilliant sunshine, above the clouds. It was sublime. Another day, I kept noticing a perfectly formed mountain peak off in the distance, and as we skied closer, I realized it was the Matterhorn,” she says. Melinda’s appetite for beauty is astronomical.

My buddy, Bill Lapham, stops by. He always tells me he couldn’t be feeling any better, and then checks me over very carefully. Bill is a retired California fireman, like so many other Smith Valley retirees.

Three bright, young, FFA kids bring platters of corned beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes to our table. The corned beef is thinly sliced and delicious. “The silent auction will be held in 20 minutes,” a voice tells us. I glance around the room; everyone is having a ball, talking and eating with great gusto. Food tastes better when you’re among friends.

Steve is sitting directly across from me. Jumping right to the point I say, “Steve, Wynne tells me you just got back from Costa Rica; what was that all about?” With utter composure, he says, “I had some airline miles, and was about to lose them. I lived on the Costa Rican Caribbean coast for 3 years in 1972, and I wanted to go back and see if anything had changed, also to see if a good friend had stayed on, and was still there. Back then, we had no telephones, no electricity and only a generator. I lived in a tin shack, raised chickens, and the natives told me how to fast, live healthy and prosper,” Steve says. I straighten up, and take a second look at the mystery guy sitting across from me. There’s more to this tale, than I can grasp at the moment. I ask Steve to jot down a few words in an email, and two days later, I receive a 900 word “essay.” Stay tuned-more to follow.

Ron Walker can be reached at