Until now, I’ve lived all my life in cities. Nothing huge mind you, but cities of considerable size enough to have a gas station on every corner with a strip shopping mall sandwiched in between. Places where you often didn’t know who your neighbors were and where small kindnesses from people you didn’t know were few and far between. Where people often didn’t recognize your face even though you’d seen them a million times, much less know your name. And where the air was palpable with a buzz of “busyness” in all the people and the traffic.
When the decision was made to “live the dream” a little earlier than retirement and pull up stakes out of the city, I landed here at Carlyle Lake in the country. The town of Carlyle is 5 miles away. There is a real downtown with real stores that you really go to buy things at. There is a postmaster who knows who you are before you hit the door because he saw your truck pull up. There’s a butcher who offers to cut you a piece of meat specially if you don’t see a cut you like. There are no Great Clips or other hair chains, but there IS a true barber shop on Main Street complete with barber pole. The clerks in the stores know you by name. If you don’t find what you need in Carlyle, you go to another little town (most of which are only 20 minutes away at the most) where it’s the same thing all over again. When you go to Rural King, the clerk asks if you still love your bomber hat and hate the coveralls. Fast food is limited… “mom and pop” restaurants abound where they know you by name and ask you if you want the usual. Want an old-fashioned variety store? Just half hour down the road as the crow flies. No matter where you go there is always a smile, always a wave, always a hello.
The only buzz you might feel is the whisper of a bee against your ear.
As usual on a Tuesday morning, I loaded the truck up with the laundry and headed to Breese about 15 miles away to the laundromat. As I was folding towels, the owner stuck his head in the door and said one of my tires was flatter than a pancake and offered to call the town service station if I’d like so that they could fix it while I was finishing up my laundry. Not 5 minutes later they were there… airing the tire enough to get it to the station, telling me they’d have it fixed and back before I was done folding sheets. True to their word for in a half hour I was loaded and heading back for home. My thanks for going above and beyond what I supposed to be the norm was waved off. “That’s just how we do things around here Miss.”
Small town values… that’s what I was raised up with even in a bigger city. That’s what I’m living in the here and now.
It’s so nice to know they’re not dead.