Darrington. Just the name makes my heart warm. We love the town of Darrington, and the friends we found there. The ten years we spent in Darrington are treasured memories by our family of four school age daughters. Some really wonderful folks live beside the Sauk and the Stilly rivers. They're such friendly people; they wave as you drive by, and love to chat whenever they see you.
Darrington is accessible from the west via State Route 530, and again by State Route 530 from the north; the few northern miles connecting the town to Concrete opened after 1978. This partially explains why the community still has a unique and distinctive "Tar Heel" culture solidly grafted into the area.
From incredible scenery, to unique culture, there are many parts that contribute to Darrington's unique community. One of the best parts of Darrington are the grandparents. They may even be the "golden" ingredient of Darrington. What a richness of belonging is given to children by their grandparents. My own grandparents were gone by the time I was 20, so I wasn't blessed with the time to spend with mine. Now, I understand a little more of what I missed.
Darrington is filled with many active Grandparents; they volunteer at the churches, many come to school and pick up their grand kids, give hours to the library, help plan local events, and create endless canned goods. Darrington grandparents take the time to listen, and spend time with their grandchildren. Grandparents teaching their grandchildren how to tie flies, pick beans, and piece quilts. Grandparents gathering blueberries, and making jams and jellies with their kids and grandkids.
In Darrington, the boys are still talking about Grandpa's amazing sour cream enriched cornbread from last Sunday dinner, and when they're going steelhead fishing together next. The boys have rifles in the back of their pickups, par ked at the high school. One of the girls has a record winning cougar skin on her parent's wall. Yes; she got that cougar herself! The community, teachers and the students organize fly-ins, hiking trips, hunting adventures, and share fishing lures. They all go together, too. Some of those teachers were students of Darrington just a few years ago, and they're part of extended family everywhere in the valley.
The Darrington, WA School district is surprisingly good. Some of the best teachers I've even known work in this small, close-knit community. It was where our daughters loved attending school, and where they found good friends. We still talk about those special teachers, and miss the school employees and people so much.
We also lived in Arlington, WA, before we moved to Darrington, and once again, our experience in the Arlington school district was good, and our children enjoyed attending school there. We absolutely adored Trafton. We met so many neighbors in the Trafton - Oso area, and we were glad we just moved up the valley into Darrington, where we could still keep in touch with our friends from down below.
My husband and I both grew up in north Seattle, and attended Seattle schools from the 60's through the early 70's. Seattle deserved it's reputation as a great place to live and raise a family. We wanted our children to have a positive school experience, too, but we were pragmatic about it, feeling it would be difficult to duplicate the "good old days" for our daughters. We were pleasantly surprised to find so many good things from the past, still existed in Trafton - Darrington schools.
Darrington's not all about "lifestyle" and "advanced degrees". In fact, living in Darrington makes you realize how changed our values have become as a society. What is really more important than your family? Well, down below, people will scoff at you when you're excited about your fourth child. As you head up the valley, however, right about Trafton, things begin to change. City folks want to know how big your new home is, and where did you find your newest diamond ring. Those are common topics of conversation. After Oso, you've found old family values still come first.
There are also the famous town luncheons, of course. They feature the amazing recipes from the North Carolina families, coupled with friends who have shared the same town for 50 years and more. But most of all, there are extended families whose emphasis is still on "family". Darrington folks are happy to share recipes, best fishing holes, and favorite blueberry patches with you for next summer. After a while, their Grandparents living two doors down from you, feel like your Grandparents, and that's fine; they'll share.
Many of the original settlers to Darrington came from North Carolina, and several were loosely related to each other from the beginning. Later, more families arrived that were also from the same townships and counties of the original settlers, with more family connections in common. Some were cousins, brothers, and in laws, but they were all from the same "Tar Heel" culture, even if not related.
This warm, "Tar Heel" culture of Darrington, is experienced by newcomers and visitors, too. Darrington people are golden-hearted, loving, kind people, with generous natures, and old time integrity. They remember, read, and pray about the Scriptures, and they actively practice the Golden Rule.
After a while, the popular "get ahead" ideas from down below will seem shallow, and more "money" oriented than you realized. You can't understand why you weren't taking more time off to spend with your family. When did "lifestyle" ever became so important, anyway? You begin to wonder when you may listen to more stories from your neighbor again. The TV sits dark for days at a time. Your car seems to be just fine the way it is, and you don't really need a bigger house.
Instead of asking you, "where's your bachelor's degree from?", or if you're still going after your Master's, first they want to get to know you and your family. They're glad you're here, wherever you came from. They'll invite you over for dinner Sunday. Oh, sure you can bring the family dog along, too.
It's now been few years since we lived in Darrington. Yet, it's still the place our heart calls home. It's the families there - the beautiful children, the grandparents, the beloved teachers, the Post Office employees, the Pharmacy employees that always knew our names, and everyone always so glad to see us. We grew, and learned to look at what we had, versus what we wanted to someday achieve, for our happiness.
It seemed there was always enough heaven in Darrington to pass around. It was truly all around us. We were blessed to be able to make those memories. There's another way to live in that beautiful valley. They welcome whomever's at the dinner table, as they pass the corn bread, real butter, home grown honey, and share favorite stories again.
We remember fondly how it felt to be a part of Darrington's extended family. That feeling of, "I'm so happy right now," sticks with you. We still think our high mileage car is just fine. We're not too far from Whitehorse Mountain these days. When we see Whitehorse Mt. shining along the crest of the eastern horizon, we think about all the people we loved there, and we know Darrington awaits our return.
We may live down below for now, but we'll always add a heaping spoonful of sour cream when we make cornbread, and tell our Darrington stories with fondness.
By the way, what are you doing for Sunday dinner?
Phil and Stacey Mayer Family