The label that a community gets can make or break it, regardless of it's size. And those labels sometimes come into being from one simple, unthinking action of one person to another.
I have often heard people say that they don't like one place or another where they have visited or worked for a short time. Often the bad impression that put that sour taste in their mouth is an unkind word by a waitress in a restaurant, a picky citation given by a police officer or even a dirty motel room in a lodge in that city. The label that towns get come from many sources.
But one of the things I think give a town a bad reputation is the myopic views that people who live there often take of the world and even of their own community. It is generally the "we" rather than the "they" that gives the place we love a bad name.
When I moved here 12 years ago, I knew quite of bit about Carbon County, but not as much as I should have. I knew that coal mining was the big industry, but I also knew that the town had a wonderful center piece: the College of Eastern Utah.
I had spent a lot of time working in college towns in my life and while I had never spent a lot of time living in any of those, I knew how important that institution was to the community, both in terms of culture and jobs.
In the late 1950's this county went through a big fight trying to keep Carbon College open. Many at the state level wanted it closed, but the community rallied support and it stayed open, eventually breaking it's administrative ties with the University of Utah and becoming a entity of it's own.
When I moved here it was to work at CEU. I spent four wonderful years on that campus and made a lot of good friends, many of whom are still there. But the longer I stayed there, the more I learned about an invisible barrier that seems to exist in this town between the college and the community. It seems some at the college had spent years alienating citizens by living in their seeming "ivory towers."
Yet no dispute is ever one sided. After I left the college I started my own business and then eventually ended up working at the Sun Advocate. In the years since I left I have found so many people that are negative about CEU, and many of them aren't people you would suspect feel that way.
There is a myopic view in this county on one level that wants to discount academics and the importance of the college. On the other side is a group whom while they may not admit it, gunuinely dislike living in a blue collar locale, where guys that get black in the mines every day make a heck of a lot more money than those with degrees.
It seems many people care very little about what goes on at the CEU campus, and there are those at the college who feel the same way about the county. It just can't be that way and have things work right. While we all have our differences, we are all out here on a very narrow branch, in a very big tree. People need to care when college employees lose their jobs or cuts at the college affect services. Those who are employed at the college need to take notice when the extraction industry takes a downturn and things get bad for coal mining families.
We are, afterall, everyone of us, a part of this very unique place.