Hunker Down: A blessing Not in disguise
There are tremendous advantages to growing up in a small town. For one thing, it doesn’t take long to get from one end of it to the other.
Now, you might not think that a big deal… But if you had been playing baseball in Billy Gwaltney’s side yard all afternoon and completely lost track of time and realized when you stood up after tagging out Terry Kennon on a bang-bang play at second that all of a sudden the sun had sunk behind the abandoned tower at Mr. Blumenthal’s old Egg Plant and you were mandated to be home for supper…
I flashed by the Methodist Parsonage racing towards W. Church Avenue, took a left on Stonewall between the Baptist and Presbyterian churches and hightailed it the three-quarters of a mile to the house!
I was out of breath, I’d run out of one tennis shoe in front of Jeanne Caldwell’s big home, the sweat I’d worked up was melting the dirt rings around my neck into tiny rivulets trickling across my Adam’s apple, Terry yelling that I completely missed the tag was still ringing in my ears… but I had my glove, my shirt wasn’t torn but a little bit and I’d made it before Grace was said.
Dad didn’t play around about mealtime.
As Mom blessed the food, I silently thanked a benevolent and merciful God that we hadn’t been playing in Eddie Carden’s front yard, which was all the way out Highway 22 past the intersection!
Getting into town on Saturday mornings was a snap. We’d start out walking, but usually the first car “going our way” would stop. Mr. Roy Manley was our favorite ride. He’d slow his pickup to a crawl and motion us into the back. It would be me and David Mark, Jimmy and Kong King, Brenda Ellis, sometimes Aunt Jessie. We’d climb over the side or hop on the tailgate, talking and waving at folks and laughing all the way up to the square.
Mother didn’t have to tell us not to get into a car with a stranger – we didn’t have any strangers!
I’m telling you, we could solve half the problems in America today, if we’d just throw the combatants into the back of Mr. Roy’s truck and ride ’em around a small town for a bit.
I will tell you another big advantage to small-town living. Everybody knew who was kin to whom! When I decided in junior high I liked Charlotte Melton, I had a serious talk with Ricky Hale. I wanted him to quietly persuade his cousin Pam Collins to find out – completely off the record – if their cousin Charlotte would be amenable to going out with me.
Pam “found” me outside my locker with 15 of my closest friends standing around, “Kesley, let me tell you something, you stay away from our cousin. She is not going out with you today, tomorrow or forever! Have you got rocks in your head! If you think you’ve got one chance in a whirlwind with her, your craz—”
You know, some advantages don’t always work the way you want them to…
There were other situations where this “advantage thing” might be in the eye of the beholder. We’d be out at Kenny Butler’s house hanging on his fence. We might have been a tad loud. And we might have accidently leaned a bit hard on that old fence. Mr. Butler might have warned us a time or two to pay more attention to both.
All of a sudden Mr. Butler had Kenny by the arm, whipping the daylights out of him! Then he grabbed Buddy and did the same. And Wiley. I was fourth in line. And believe me, Mr. Butler still had plenty of gas in the tank!
You think anyone ran home and “told” on Mr. Butler. Heaven forbid! If Daddy had gotten wind of it, he would have whipped me ‘till the band quit playing; then taken me out to the Butler’s house so I could apologize in person and offer to straighten the fence.
Some unenlightened folks today might be appalled by that action. They don’t have a clue. It was one of the Biggest advantages of growing up in a small place. We got “looked-after” by the most wonderful, caring, sincere people on earth.
I understood it when it was taking place. I appreciate it “to the moon and back” as the years roll on.
Our small-town upbringing is as relevant to us as it is everlasting!
Emily Young Archer’s husband died earlier this year. Jerry didn’t grow up with us but he was a good guy. I played golf with him on occasion. When I heard the news my heart stopped… for Emily. We were not necessarily best buds growing up. We never dated. But we were friends. And it was a small town.
And miles and time and circumstance will never override that…