Mr. Ratliff Saying Goodbye

Jered Ratliff gave me permission to share his goodbye article with the Good Morning Scott Valley family.

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Two summers ago, we had several months to prepare for our move to the valley.  I was familiar with small-town mountain living, having been raised in nearby Weaverville, but it was going to be a new experience for my wife and our two children.

But just 10 days before we moved, my wife ended up admitted to the hospital and was on mandatory bedrest until our third child was born.  This meant we would be separated for up to 2 months.  It ended up “only” being 7 weeks, but it was a time that was both trying and strengthening.  Two weeks after mom rejoined us from her extended sojourn, we welcomed our family’s 5th member – who is the only one who forever can lay claim to being a Siskiyou County Native.

We had already received over a dozen frozen meals from people we were yet to meet to help us through this transition.  And we knew we were in a good place.

Driving was an initial adjustment here.  Recently several agencies have changed their stance on the best hand positions on the steering wheel.  For many of us, it was hands at “10 and 2.”  Now, though, the more common instruction is “9 and 3.”  There are a couple problems with this instruction.  The first problem is that cell phones – in addition to everything else they do – are ubiquitous timepieces.  When a student asks me what time it is and I quickly reference the wall clock, I have heard the sincere response “I can’t read that kind of clock.”  The phrase “9 and 3” doesn’t make a lot of sense if digital clocks are the norm.

The second problem, though, is that two years of driving through the valley has retrained me to position not two hands but one hand on the wheel.  It’s usually the left hand at about 1 o’clock.  It must be held in such a way so as to extend two fingers up as a casual wave to anybody driving the opposite direction.  In larger cities, someone holding a steering wheel that way probably IS up to no good.

Recently I was in the passenger seat and my wife was driving the family vehicle.

“Why aren’t you waving to anyone?” I asked.

“I’m paying attention to the road,” she said.  “It’s hard to focus on the road and try to figure out who is driving the other vehicles.”

“Hmph.  You probably use both hands to drive, too,” I muttered.

“I’m sorry?”

“I said, ‘that’s probably the safest way to drive.’”

I’ve learned that the one intersection in Etna with 4 stop signs probably doesn’t need them.  One time – and only one time – I arrived at the intersection at nearly the same time as two vehicles at two of the other signs.  None of us knew what to do.  Who goes first?  Who’s going which direction?  Instead we just rolled down our windows and chatted it up.

Which leads to another small-town nicety: the middle-of-the-road conversation with at least one of the talkers in a vehicle.  If you see a vehicle stopped ahead, and there is a conversation, the rule is that you either take a side street or pull to the side of the road until the conversation is complete.  When I left the grocery store once and one of these conversations was taking place behind my vehicle, I walked back in and pretended to have forgotten something, rather than insist on backing up and interrupting an encounter between two townsfolk.

I knew I was comfortable with this arrangement when I was walking down Main Street, saw a friend driving by, and immediately walked across one lane of traffic to start talking.  It meant I was in the middle of the road.  Several vehicles passed behind me.

I’ve learned that seeing horses ridden or walked through town is the norm.  Deer are classified as rodents.  I’ve seen fresh snow on the hills in each month except July or August.  Old-timers insist that it’s snowed on the 4th of July, and nothing I’ve experienced would tell me this is not true.

Nothing can beat the variety of weather that comes with the four distinct seasons here.  And nothing matches the beauty of a fresh snow on the hills or especially in town.

Inspired by a healthy and vibrant running community, I took up running about a year and a half ago, ultimately helping me shed nearly 70 pounds and allowing me to participate in several 5K events, as well as a few firsts: a few 10Ks, a half-marathon and finally a marathon.  It’s a newfound passion and one I will always fondly recall as originating in this valley.  There’s seemingly infinite support and encouragement for healthy lifestyles here.

So much so that I was able to add a new title last fall: coach.  I had the privilege and honor to coach about a dozen Etna High students through a season of cross country.  It’s yet another aspect I thoroughly enjoy about being part of a high school community: wonderful kids striving to do their best in academics and athletics.  It’s yet another part of what makes Etna great.

I’ve forgotten that there actually are places where you have to lock everything up at night. And that some places have people who won’t look at you when you walk down the street.  Or wave at you on the highway.  Or that a car horn honking is a sign of friendship, not hostility.

I say farewell to a column that started as a weekly, then became a biweekly, then got interspersed with some enjoyable contributions to the main pages of the SDN’s sports pages, then curtailed quite a bit as I found myself engrossed in a year of teaching and coaching.

Our family says farewell to a community who has taken us in and all the good people we know here.  Our children have absolutely adored their schools.  Our church family has been an immense support for us as we seek to deepen our own faith in God’s purposes for our lives.  And – when tragedy struck our small campus and community several months ago – I saw a congealing that I will probably never again witness among a community.

As I proofed this a final time, it dawned on me that something is missing.  Why would one leave this utopia?  A job change.  As one who has grown up seasoned by competitive team sports, both as a participant and an official or umpire, I know that there are calls that are made that often not everyone agrees with.  The worst thing the coach can do after a call doesn’t go his way, though, is to continue to make a fuss about the decision.  It doesn’t help anyone involved.  You accept the call and move on.  I’m excited to be able to continue teaching, though.

I am reminded, though, of a plaque I was given by my classmates at the school I attended while an exchange student in Brazil in the mid 90’s.  Translated, it says that whenever we leave we never do so alone; we always keep a little from those who we’ve met and leave a little of ourselves.

The part of Scott Valley that we’ve gleaned will always stay with us.  I hope we’ve left a few things worth remembering, as well.

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