My Mountain Community

In building story world of Lacing Up For Murder I had to figure out why I was so fascinated with the resort community.  There are three levels to any neighborhood.  First you have the permanent residents, the people who anchor the community working in the stores, at the bank, the medical clinic, the post office, and the fire station. We see these people frequently, recognize most by sight and more than a few by name.  Then you have the frequent visitors; grown children of your neighbors, people who have second homes in the area, business people who live elsewhere but have a financial interest in local businesses.  And third, the people who pass through on their way to somewhere else.

In the resort community, the permanent residents are a small, tightly knit group.  We gather together with the common awareness that we are isolated from bigger cities by sixteen or twenty-five miles.  That isolation increases our sense of dependence upon each other should a crisis arise.  Volunteer numbers are high, especially in the fire station auxiliary, Lions Club, and free meals through the churches.  Our local government is ours, we are the only officially registered village in Oregon.  We truly govern ourselves through the Community Planning Organization and a board of directors.

The locals who have lived here all their lives, usually their parents and grandparents were also born and raised in the area, are a closed group with tighter bonds.  They don’t shut out other permanent residents, but they let us know that we are newcomers and the village is theirs.

The second layer, the part-timers, generally aren’t involved in the CPO but they show up in dance class for the summer, or hang out at the ski rental shop in the winter.  They attend one of the local churches when they are in town.  We talk about the weather when we find them with their laptops using the free wifi in the bookstore or coffeeshops.

We have a lot of people passing through.  Some spend a night or two at the resort, a week in a time share, or they bring an RV to the campground.  Many merely buy gas or picnic supplies on their way further up the mountain for outdoor recreation.  We see them in the grocery store or restaurants, maybe the Laundromat, but we rarely converse unless they ask directions.

This is the kind of village where I set Lacing.

In all the places I have lived, this small town environment is the first place where I truly feel a sense of community, where I expect to see my neighbors when I go out for a walk, and know that my neighbors are watching my house for signs of unusual activity, just as I watch theirs.  I have friends here that I know I can ask for a ride to the doctor’s office when my husband has the car.  Running across the street to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar is normal.  Redistributing the mail to the proper house is something we all laugh about.  (The newest contract mail delivery person can read.  The previous one I don’t think so.)  I truly care for these people, even the ones I know I have to watch my tongue with because of our differing religious and political views.  We care for each other because we live in close proximity and understand each other.  We depend upon each other.

Then it hit me, I’ve written this type of community before in the two books of the Confederated Star Systems series, Harmony and Enigma by C.F. Bentley.  I indulge in this community once a year when I watch a marathon of Babylon 5.  I modeled the Whistling River Lodge on a space station, with the same layers of community.


Phyllis Irene Radford blogs here regularly on Thursdays, the same day her cozy mystery Lacing Up For Murder by Irene Radford is serialized on the Book View Cafe.  Check out her bookshelf for a sampling of her short fiction.

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About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


My Mountain Community — 3 Comments

  1. What is the name of this village and which side of the Cascades is it on? it sounds delightful to live in! Except – if it’s like most villages – how many generations do you have to live there before you stop being a tourist?

  2. Pat,

    I’ve been here 14 years and just moving out of tourist into part-timer.

    For the most part, multi-generational long-timers live at the end of private dirt roads in one room cabins with no electricity or plumbing — we think since no one ventures too close. They’ve been known to shoot at snow plows trying to rescue them in la nina years <-:

    The definition of long timer is changing to those who were raised here, moved away for school and work, then came back to buy a business. They are more tolerant than their folks.

    We're on the west side of Mt Hood halfway between Sandy & Gov't Camp

  3. One Theory of mysteries is that there always is a status quo, a community of either physical or emotional neighbors. The quintessential example of this would be Miss Marpl’es village of St Mary’s Mead. This community is broken in upon by somebody or something that causes an upset (usually a murder). The Bad is removed by solving the crime, and then the community can revert back to its previous happy mean. Sometimes the crime-solver is in residence, as Miss Marple. (Would I invest in real estate in St Mary’s Mead? Not on your tintype!) Other times he comes in from outside, as in Westerns or like Lord Peter Wimsey. Less often the problem is brought to the solver (like Holmes) who either solves it from afar or is invited to visit and clear things up.