The old saw has it that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Sorry, folks. I'm beginning to suspect that whoever said that got it backwards. The older I get, the more I learn, and some of the things I learn are really important.
An example: The lot north of mine in Pine stayed empty from the day our little neighborhood was originally developed until just a few months ago.
That's quite a while -- all the way back to the early seventies. Somebody finally bought the lot and built a country-style home on it, a nice place with an upward-looking view of Strawberry Mountain. The builder told me that he intended to live in it himself, and I was quite happy with that because he seemed like plain folk, and that was a big plus in my book.
Then, at a time when the paint on the place had hardly even had time to dry, my prospective new neighbor, who had not yet moved in, told me that he had sold it.
"Fella's a real estate man," he told me. I'll be honest with you. My heart just about stopped. Why? Well, what's your image of a "real estate man?" I wasn't expecting someone who was exactly what I thought of as "plain folk."
You know what you call that? Prejudice. Prejudging someone based on a mental image instead of waiting to learn the truth. I was guilty of being prejudiced without even realizing it.
What taught me that? The truth.
The truth turned out to be Terry Hillman and his wife, Claire. He is from Ohio, she from Oklahoma.
I swear, two finer, more good-hearted, harder working people never trod the soil of this planet. I usually see Terry in jeans, shirtless, with a sweatband around his head as he works around his place, shoveling gravel or painting an old shed that was originally on the property, or just generally putting me to shame as he gets down-and-dirty in an attempt to keep his place looking great.
And he cares about the same things we all do up here.
When he wanted to put up a little garage, he requested a variance so that he wouldn't have to damage a couple of small trees that most people would have just bulldozed out of the way. And believe it or not, Claire is usually right out there beside him. The first time I ever saw the two of them outside their place, they were shoveling snow together. And they obviously loved doing it.
Terry is always smiling and laughing, and the laugh wrinkles around his eyes show that smiling is a lifelong habit.
Their little place fits the atmosphere of Old Pine perfectly, and so do they. I found out the other day that Terry is listed in the Payson phone book now and can do business up here. Now who do you suppose I'll go to if I ever have to sell my place or buy another one?
I may be old dog, but I can still learn a new trick now and then.