Letter from Darrell Arnold
Newcomers – December 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine
I live in La Veta, Colorado, a town of 900, and we few remaining “locals” are often accused by the growing legions of paranoid “newcomers” of looking down our noses at them, even though many of them have lived here for 20 years or more. Well, there are reasons why that happens.
We have newcomers and then we have newcomers. Some come to town and immediately become involved in the affairs of the community. They are active in school activities and cheer on the football team. They support the 4-H club, join a local church and/or civic organization, and give generously to local charities. They try to become like us, and their “newcomerness” is often overlooked and forgiven.
Others, however, move in and immediately start trying to “make things better.” These are viewed with suspicion at the very least and disdain at the extreme.
For example, one of our newcomers (who has lived here more than 20 years) came to town and managed to cause the closure of a popular and convenient local dump. The residents were forced into much more expensive waste-management options. Needless to say, the fellow wasn’t and still isn’t very popular with old-timers (though he does enjoy support from other newcomers of similar attitudes).
Another fellow (who has lived here less than 10 years) constantly and loudly complains about how much better they did things back where he came from. They had bigger parades, more people involved in civic activities, stricter zoning laws, etc. He still can’t get it through his thick skull that the wealthy county he came from had 600,000 people in it while our impoverished county has barely 9,000. Our community has neither the resources nor the people to match what he was used to, and the first thing we want to say to the guy is, “then why don’t you go back where you came from?”
A third example is a recent complaint by several newcomers that a fishing club at our town-owned lakes (local water supply) is private instead of public. It seems unfair that everyone can’t easily get into the club. What these people don’t understand is that, 30 years ago, the town lakes offered public fishing, but the resultant trashing of the lakes and grounds made it expensive and undesirable to keep the lakes open, so the town board closed them to all. It was only when the private club offered to maintain the beauty of the lakes that fishing was once again allowed. Now, approximately 400 people a year enjoy fishing at the lakes. True locals understand there are sound reasons why things exist as they do.
Most recently, newcomers who have gotten themselves elected to the town board are trying to annex the local golf course. The club owner wants to enrich himself by developing it for million-dollar homes. The newcomers see it as a boost to our economy, while we locals see it as a serious threat to our rural way of life in this as yet bucolic country town.
Newcomers will never be considered locals if they can’t accept and embrace established order and values. If they want to be considered as locals, they have to quit acting like newcomers.