I’ve learned that there are kind and generous people everywhere.Heather Rudolph
“If you live in Baker and you’re friendly, you never know what will happen. I’m friendly like my dad. When he was growing up in this neighborhood, he had a paper route and he knew some older folks who were alive during the 1800s. My dad just seems to know everybody. I had a newspaper route in the same area as my dad and delivered to some of the same people he did. I grew up with people knowing me and I thought that’s how everybody was. When I was in college, one of my roommates said, ‘Oh, I hate it when people know me everywhere.’ But I think it is so convenient. And it just makes you feel less lonely. I talk to people everywhere I go, no matter who they are, and they really respond.
I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I knew that my hands and legs weren’t strong enough. I loved animals and I worked in the vet’s office here for years, but you have to be strong to do that work so I chose to study biology in La Grande. When I came back to Baker I did substitute teaching for about six years. The thing I struggle with most is that when people see me, they want to know what’s wrong with me. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was three and it’s been part of my whole life. My sister gave me some great advice when I started teaching. She said, ‘Tell the kids what you have. That’s all they really want to know.’ So I always tell them at the beginning and then it isn’t such an issue. People often want to help so it’s a reason to talk to me and I end up knowing more people.
I spent almost six years having joint replacements. When I finally felt good enough to walk and do things for myself again, I thought, ‘If anybody asks me to do anything, I’m going to say yes because I have missed out on enough already.’ I decided to get a Master’s degree in Moscow, Idaho and I loved it up there. Then I focused on ethnography, the study of customs of peoples and cultures. I earned my PhD in Georgia. People warned me that outside the safety zone of Baker County I needed to be afraid and guard against bad people, but I’ve learned that there are kind and generous people everywhere. I’ve met wonderful people in every state and country I’ve visited.
Recently I was teaching at a community college in Wyoming, but I quit and came back to Baker five months ago because I decided this is where I need to be right now. My new goal is to buy a butcher shop and turn it into a USDA facility. The economy of Baker relies on ranching and it makes sense to have a facility here. I raised animals in FFA, worked at the vet’s office, taught anatomy and physiology, and have studied butchering. I know a good piece of meat when I see it! The other day I went to a grocery store and met the meat department manager. We had a great connection and he said he would go with me to look at the shop and give me advice on how to get it running. Like I said, if you’re in Baker and you’re friendly, you never know what will happen.”