4.30.2012

Charmed by Aberdeen

Anti-social is not a word anyone would use to describe me. Far from it actually, but on some recent trips to Aberdeen I started to think of myself that way. T and I had been using Aberdeen as a base on the winter weekends as we skied at Mammoth and as usual, I hunker down when it gets cold and dark. I spent the winter weekends snowboarding or hunkered down in Aberdeen. T on the other hand, spent the winter skiing and meeting everyone in Aberdeen. It's a little ironic actually because if either one of us would be considered less-social, it would be T, hands down. So imagine my surprise when we would come back from skiing and T would disappear only to return later with a beer and a story of a new neighbor he had met.

Looking back on it, I wondered if I was anti-social because I would get back to the airstream and try to put things away, shower, or do other things that "should be done" while T would just walk away and meet someone new; or if I made a choice not to get to know my neighbors. Strange. I am not really sure what the answer is. At the end of the winter I knew a handful of our neighbors and T knew almost all of them.
T also really, really, really liked going up to the Eastern Sierra and Aberdeen was part of that this past winter. If he wasn't skiing he was fishing, or shooting, or jumping in a neighbors Rhino to go explore the area. Me? I was neutral about everything except the snowboarding part. I really liked snowboarding. And I liked hanging out with our friends / neighbors the Fish Whisperer and his wife. Until this past weekend I was pretty neutral about Aberdeen too.

But this past weekend something changed. It was the Trout Opener (opening of fishing season) and a lot more people showed up in Aberdeen. The weather was amazing and Aberdeen started to charm me.

I think it is time of a few facts about Aberdeen. Aberdeen (formerly, Aberdeen Station and Tibbets) is an unincorporated community in Inyo County, California. It is located 12.5 miles north-northwest of Independence, at an elevation of 3914 feet (Wikipedia). The only structure in Aberdeen is the store. It looks like the original store was built in 1921 (Owens Valley History - Aberdeen). All our neighbors live in mobile homes, Cavco Cabins, or RVs. So far, we are the only ones with an airstream. According to the Aberdeen Resort webpage, Aberdeen has about 70 permanent residents. After hanging out in Aberdeen for a season, I am not sure if that means they have 70 FULL TIME residents or 70 residents who have a home here. There are a lot of people who treat Aberdeen as a second home and don't live here year round. Many of them have been coming to Aberdeen for years.
The opening of Trout season is a big deal in the Eastern Sierra and it seemed like everyone who had a place in Aberdeen showed up this past weekend. The airstream backs up to Goodale Creek and I watched fishermen walk by all day on Saturday as I read my book. Our neighbor the Fish-whisperer, said there was a potluck fish-fry on Saturday night and that we should go. Out the airstream window I watched all our neighbors come out for the fish-fry. Picnic benches were filled and everyone was laughing and having a good time. When the call for dinner came, I stayed in the airstream because T was "gone fishing" and the Fish-Whisperer was at work. In hindsight I realize I could have gone over for the fish-fry, but I just didn't feel comfortable doing that.

By the time T got back it looked like the fish-fry was over. Most of the neighbors had meandered away and just a few people were sitting around talking. We were going to have some cold BBQ chicken for dinner when one of our "neighbors" (I feel like everyone is a "neighbor" in Aberdeen) asked us if we had eaten dinner and told us to grab a plate and come have some of the fish-fry.
And that is when things started to change for me.

All day I had been watching people helping each other and laughing together. There was a duck who had laid her eggs by the creek (across from the airstream) and everyone was trying to help protect her eggs. Grown-ups were helping children learn to fish and everyone had a beer for their neighbor. It finally dawned on me that Aberdeen was a kind of extended family that takes care of each other. Eating the fish-fry with my neighbors I learned that on Sunday there was a BBQ rib potluck for anyone that was staying. Turns out, they had been doing this for years. Eating together. Fishing, laughing, drinking. Bring their kids up here, watching their kids bring their kids up here. Creating a community. The kind of community I've never seen before. The kind of community where everyone was indeed, your neighbor.

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