Keeping Tabs on the Community Bulletin Board


There’s not much opportunity on top of a mountain to pause at a community bulletin board, but with the help of a solar-powered radio and an antenna I’ve augmented with aluminum foil, the FM airwaves help me keep tabs on the community news in Kooskia, Idaho; Dillon, Montana; and places as far away as Spokane, Pullman, and Lake Chelan, Washington, while I scan the wilderness for forest fire smoke. 

Part of my morning routine includes tuning into a radio station in central Idaho that runs a community calendar spotlight. The affable announcer usually plugs a community production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the park, a chili cook off, or a rummage sale to raise funds for the high school band’s trip to Dollywood. One day, there was a request for clothing and food donations for a family who survived a house fire. 

This morning, there was a reward being offered for a wedding ring lost at the laundromat, and after that, a shout-out to the owner of a lost blue heeler who had shown up dragging a length of yellow rope, right there in the radio station parking lot. I pictured the dog, panting next to the announcer, a man I imagined wearing big headphones and holding a ceramic cup of coffee emblazoned either with the radio station’s call letters, or “World’s Best Dad,” while he leans into a microphone, glasses perched on the end of his nose 

Another FM station in southeast Montana has a trivia break where you win a six-inch sub from Subway for answering the question correctly, a prize barely worth the effort of picking up the phone, if you ask me. But still, I can’t resist a trivia competition. One day, the question was asking for the name of a 1980s sitcom starring a child robot, Vicki, modeled after a human girl. I shouted out the answer from my mountaintop, just as the winning caller boomed out the name of the show, Small Wonder, in a deep, husky voice.

“Correct!” The announcer beamed over the airwaves, “And what’s your name, sir?”  

“This is Betty,” the winner said in a gravely monotone. 

I just knew that Betty was one of my people. I pictured Betty as a community bulletin board type who stops in doorways, and has probably stapled up a posting or two advertising a bread maker—new in the box—a computer desk, or one of those towering, carpeted kitty condos. I wanted to call the radio station to see if I could get Betty’s home phone number, just to chat.

Some days, I simply want to know that despite everything else going on in the world, communities still put on carnivals, turtle races, talent shows, and bake sales, and that county fairs still host concerts of resurrected 80s bands that feature no original members. On the most contemplative of mountaintop days, an announcement for the Orofino, Idaho, Class of 1958 Reunion can stop me from feeling like I’m sliding off the planet into obscurity, the same way the curly dog on that flier in Miles City, Montana, once made me feel less alone on a road trip.

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