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Wallowa Gal: A vote that values our community

The words of writers give readers ideas and phrases needed to express themselves.

Published on April 11, 2018 8:36AM


My philosophy is to add value to each person and place I encounter. I seem to fail as much as succeed, but the striving leads to a better day. I’ve been thinking about what adds value to community.

Incrementally, Wallowa County residents are facing decisions on self-sustainability. The county removed funding for the Wallowa county Museum in Joseph. Museum Board members will soon publish “Wallowa County History –– A Continuation,” sales of which will support operation of the museum. What is the value of the Museum? The collection of memorabilia and stories retains our community’s identity, a vital component of the culture we love.

The county has reduced funds to imprison criminals. Violators are processed through the court in a quasi “catch and release” system. Criminals such as drug dealers and “tweakers” (meth addicts) are free to ride bicycles along the streets through all hours of the night. So now we lock our doors.

What is the value of public safety? How important is trusting that our personal safety, as well as our belongings, are protected? Do we form secret vigilante groups and designate a “hanging judge?” I have no answers.

Funding for the Wallowa County Library has been removed, which brings us to an upcoming vote to establish a district. The convenience of Kindle and downloadable books can appear to make libraries obsolete. What is the value of libraries these days? I can vouch personally on that.

Growing up with alcoholic parents, I was silenced as a little girl, not allowed to believe the horrors I witnessed, not allowed to admit the screaming and crying I heard, not allowed to speak of my fears. The library was my safe place.

As I pulled open the heavy oak door, the smell of old books welcomed me. The white haired librarian with horn-rimmed glasses became a mother-figure, nurturing me with books.

“I think you’ll like this one,” she smiled one day, handing me a biography of Helen Keller. I identified with the girl, imprisoned without the ability to communicate who she was. When her teacher finally connected with Helen through sign language, I cried with tears of understanding and hope.

My husband Richard convinced me that I was a good writer. And the responses of you, my readers –– cards, emails, comments of appreciation you’ve made when I’ve met you on the street –– have added value to my writing.

I had a bad fall on March 5 and am currently silenced by a serious traumatic brain injury. Doc says no reading, no writing, no computer screen for several months, maybe a year. (A friend is typing this for me.)

Again, I turn to the library. I contacted Susan at the Wallowa County Library and now listen to audiobooks connecting me to words, connecting me to stories, connecting me to writers.

Readers need writers. It’s a relationship that goes beyond the binding of a book, the ink on the page. It’s an exchange of ideas, an agreement or disagreement on the plausible or unbelievable. The words of writers give readers ideas and phrases needed to express themselves.

And writers need readers. In the telling and the listening, we give each other voice. You have given me all that and more by following this column. I began this column to share the fun, foibles and a few tears in my attempt to learn this place.

Last week, a friend introduced me to someone, “This is Katherine Stickroth. She’s a real Wallowa gal!” My heart smiled.

That I may focus on my recovery, this is the closing of the Wallowa Gal column. I’ll still be around. God bless each one of you for honoring me with your readership.

I ask you to support the library district with your vote. I’m confident the ballot issue will be approved because that’s what we do –– the right thing for each other in our Wallowa County.



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