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Don't try to change the North Fork Valley

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Dear Editor:

When I wrote my letter and it was published on March 16, it was in response to Tom Wills' letter the week before. Just as he had every right to say why he wanted the marijuana issues passed in Hotchkiss, I also had the right to defend why I felt they should not be passed.

When Jane McGarry wrote her letter on March 30, she also had her right to express her views, but she did not have the right to say what I think, believe or feel. When she began her letter, "Helen West believes ..." I knew it wasn't going to be good. I felt like Wyatt Earp must have felt at the shootout at the OK Corral, defending what he thought was right for Tombstone.

Seriously though, I have debated with myself whether to just let Ms. McGarry rant on, or, once again, defend what I feel is right. Many people have told me how much they liked my letter and have encouraged me to respond to hers.

First of all, I thank the people in Hotchkiss for voting down the marijuana issues. I also want to apologize to anyone else who may have felt that I implied that only people who were born and raised here had the right to call these towns "their town" or "their valley." I never once in my letter called Hotchkiss or Paonia "my town" or "my valley," as Ms. McGarry kept referring to. I was born and raised here, but that wasn't the point I was trying to make.

The letter Earlana Sims wrote last week reminded me of the memories I also have of Paonia. I just wanted, like her, to remind people what our valley was built on generations ago -- hard work, pride, honesty and LOVE. I've always felt if you truly love someone or something, you don't want to change it. It's when you don't love it, you try to change it. I'm writing about the integrity of this valley, not the industrial part.

Unfortunately, we have no control over coal mines closing, and the domino effect it will have on our state, our country and especially our valley. We will lose most of our young families, as they will have to move away to find jobs.

All in all, my letter was simply to implore people to keep it a valley we can still be proud of. It really doesn't matter whether you were born here or not, just don't try to change it. My husband, and neither of my parents were born here, although they were raised here. When people would ask my mom how long she had lived here, she would laugh and point to Mount Lamborn and Landsend and say, "I was here first." She, my dad and my husband loved living here.

Also, in my defense, I have never felt "awfully lonely," as Ms. McGarry referred to. The friends I have, the love I feel wherever I go, have done nothing but enrich my life. My family, my relatives, are the "light of my life," and I thank God for all of that.

In closing, I don't know Jane McGarry and she doesn't know me. I just hope she doesn't read this letter and, once again, decide she still knows what I think, feel or believe.

Helen West

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