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Who’s the newbie here? Does it matter? 

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Are new people ruining our town with ideas from incompatible places? That’s a perennial discussion in Silver City. It got a new charge when Silver City Councilor Guadalupe Cano gave a lecture on old-timers versus newcomers at a recent council meeting. 

That was a spur for fellow columnist Tim Matthes to give his very different perspective. I have mentioned this subject indirectly in my columns, but perhaps it’s time to face it head-on — although Tim’s column stole a lot of what I wanted to say.

March was the 25th anniversary of my arrival in Grant County. Tim says he has been here 44 years. A lot of new people moved in during or just after the pandemic. But I also know a lot of people, old and young, who were born here. Here’s what these groups say about me.

Natives: “This jerk just got here. He doesn’t know anything about us. What entitles him to write a column anyway?”

Newcomers: “I moved here recently, but I’m trying learn how things work before jumping in. I read local newspaper columns to learn the ropes. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.”

Me: “I don’t know what I’m most sick of: new people trying to change us to the crazy ways of their former homes, or natives claiming the way they used to do it is the way it has to be forever, even if it’s dysfunctional.”

Maybe we’re overstating the differences. Yes, Silver City has a unique culture. We’re different from Deming, Ruidoso or Truth or Consequences. Each Grant County population center — Bayard, Hurley, Santa Clara, Gila/ Cliff, Mimbres, Gila Hot Springs — has its own feel. Furthermore, lower Mimbres is different from upper Mimbres, just as Brewer Hill is different from Chihuahua Hill.

But I don’t think the difference between newcomers and natives is as great as we claim. The changes in the world around us are more important.

We aren’t different in whether we use smartphones, computers or other devices. Many of us use Facebook or other social media. And those few who avoid new technologies are affected by them nevertheless.

The outside world of politics has changed greatly in the last 10 years, and that has changed all of us, whether we like it or not. The unique things about us aren’t what define us. Old-timers aren’t always hidebound. Newcomers don’t necessarily want to change what they came here for. When we have conflict, it usually isn’t between old and new.

Consider the controversy about a downtown hemp store that seems to be more than a hemp store. That intense debate contrasts with the lack of debate about licensed cannabis stores all over town. I was shocked to hear cannabis stores praised as sponsors from the stage of the Blues Festival. Next thing you know, there’ll be a pot garden next to the beer garden.

Another change that would shock many and please a few would be if noise ordinances were enforced — especially against barking dogs. If you’re a dog owner who thinks people dislike your noisy dog — whether it yaps or snarls — you’re missing the point. Misbehaving dogs aren’t the problem; it’s misbehaving owners, regardless of how long they’ve been here.

An interesting change for some of us is the rise of frisbee golf, commonly called disc golf. In one year, we went from having one secret informal disc golf course to having three complete public courses. Each course came about by a group effort, but was driven by specific individuals. The driving force for one was a local, and newcomers sparked the other two.

I have played disc golf on and off for 40 years, but many of the best players on our new courses didn’t know a disc from a disk two years ago. I wouldn’t have predicted that I would be so quickly surpassed by newbies. But disc golf fits here because it is an ideal sport for people who would rather work mañana.

Another change is that pickleball is replacing tennis. I brought my love of tennis from Seattle, and have been playing Saturday and Sunday mornings for more than 20 years. But the tennis community seems to be fading away. We’ve been trying to recruit foreigner tennis chumps to replace worn-out local geezers, many of whom have moved to pickleball to save their bodies. I’m a partial pickleball convert myself, and I’m looking forward to playing it next year at the new rec center across from the high school. 

Change happens whether we fight it or embrace it. Native or newbie, we need to direct change rather than react to it. And maybe we can have a little fun along the way.

Disclaimer:
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

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Bruce McKinney

Bruce McKinney is a Silver City business owner, close observer of local government and occasional troublemaker. In his column, which appears every other Wednesday, he tries to address big questions from a local perspective. Send comments and ideas to bruce@greensilverlinings.com.
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