The Good Ol’ Days

An autumn view of my street, East Bartlett Avenue, where nothing, well, hardly anything, ever happens.

The good ol’ days, my father liked to say, “were formerly known as ‘these trying times.’” We humans have a tendency to not enjoy the present until it’s past. I recalled Dad’s observation when a neighbor, John Wilson, and I were indulging in a nostalgic conversation about the “good ol’ days” of newspaper journalism.

John was an investigative reporter for the Seattle Times when I was an editor for the Associated Press in its Seattle bureau. We’d never met, but I admired and respected John’s reporting. I was dumfounded when I moved to Omak and discovered he was living here, a fellow refugee from the big, vexing city.

Our conversation about the decline of newspapers (twenty percent of the nation’s newspapers went out of business between 2004 and 2018) was prompted because John and his wife had been the victims of a violent crime. The story was not in that week’s local newspaper, much less the regional daily. The daily once vigorously covered news of our county but now, with a greatly reduced reporting staff, rarely looks in our direction.

Weekly papers are faring better than metropolitan dailies. More than twice as many papers in urban areas have stopped publishing as in rural communities. One reason might be that rural areas don’t always have good internet service. Social media, as everyone knows, has pulled advertising revenue from newspapers. Even if they manage to keep publishing, many have become ghosts of the vital information sources they once were.

John has long been retired, but he still can’t ignore an important story. Important not because it’s about him, but because we in the community need to know when bad stuff happens. We need to know when the police respond quickly and effectively. We need to know when emergency room services fall short.

Our local newspaper did ultimately report the incident, but John and his wife were not contacted.  Sometimes victims don’t want to talk to the news media. John wrote an account of the event from his perspective and brought it to me to read. The most compelling part of his story is that the attack was utterly random. The attacker had no previous connection with the Wilsons. The victims could have been in any town, on any street, or even myself, a mere five doors away. I don’t care to live in fear, but it’s good to be reminded of my vulnerability so that I can take precautions, be more alert.

Besides the Wilsons’ injuries and damage to their home, another neighbor’s fence was extensively damaged. About a week later a men’s prayer group—with no direct connection to either family—showed up to repair the fence. Again, a random act, and a kind one. The group also brought gifts to the Wilsons and offered to do yard work, which was declined.

“That’s the way things used to be,” John commented. Yeah, the good ol’ days. They’re not entirely in the past.

You can read John’s story here.

Good News/Bad News by John Wilson

The following is my neighbor John Wilson’s account of an event that occurred recently. I’m posting it because his story was not included in news accounts.-MK

The bad news is we were the victims of a violent home invasion. The good news is we survived.

It happened in broad daylight with the lone intruder entering through the kitchen window at about 5:35 p.m. Friday, March 22, at our home on Bartlett Avenue East, Omak.

Our ten-pound dog, Cricket, tried to warn us but we’ve only had him a few months. He barks at any normal neighborhood noises, and we thought that was what was going on.

Tonya, 73, was punched twice in the face and hit repeatedly over the head with an end table. I’m 82 and was punched twice in the face as I tried to fight him off. I knew I had to last long enough to call 911. We couldn’t survive on our own.

The assailant is a 27-year-old University of Washington student with no connection to us or Omak. He wanted our truck to leave Omak.

When I finally understood he wanted our truck, I told him where the keys were. He got the keys and left, and I called 911.

He crashed the truck 100 feet away into a neighbor’s fence and high-centered it on the manhole cover that protrudes above the ground. He was walking three houses north of us when two sheriff’s deputies arrived. He tried to disarm one of them, punched the other officer twice in the face and was finally subdued.

Tonya suffered a concussion and a lot of facial bruising, plus other injuries. She is very sore, has a constant headache and, of course, PTSD.

I got a broken tooth, split lip, and a black eye. I have a few symptoms of concussion but I am doing much better than Tonya. (I wasn’t hit over the head repeatedly with a table.)

There is much more to the story, some of it good and some of it appalling. We went to the ER but left without being seen. Tonya returned a second time, got a CT scan, was told she had a concussion and was discharged without ever being examined by the doctor.

The turnout and concern shown by the Omak police officers and sheriff’s deputies who responded were wonderful. We were in good hands with them.

We are home, glad to be alive and working on returning to a peaceful life. The truck escaped serious damage.

And Cricket? Tonya couldn’t locate him and thought he had been killed. She searched and found him curled into a tiny ball, trembling against the wall in the TV-computer room where I had my battle.