I live in small town America. And, I’m still glad.
When my family moved me here, the town had a stop sign on one corner and a “Do Not Turn Left” sign on the other. The railroad split the city. A train came through about every hour or two.
The police had one car and a little 10×10 building next to the railroad tracks.
The truck stop served horrible hamburgers, but it stayed open twenty-four hours a day. The rest of the town shut down at sunset.
Today, we have a boulevard and a hundred franchises. We have a half dozen banks. A chain drugstore is on every corner.
I don’t know how many stop signs and red lights we have.
Back then, the cops were always friendly and smiling. Today, they wear bullet-proof vests and wrap-around sunglasses.
We bought so much from the first Wal-Mart, we wore out the first building.
The people from Arkansas came and built a larger one. The parking lot is bigger than the city used to be.
But, we’re still a small town. About once a week, at the big intersection, someone puts up a hand-made sign. “Happy Birthday,” “Happy Anniversary or “Good Luck.”
Usually, I know the person having a birthday.
The Lions Club still has a beauty pageant once a year. The county’s beauties parade across the same stage their great grandmother’s once used. The Lions have been showing off the pretty girls in the county for seventy years now.
Across town, the Exchange Club still holds its annual fair. The rides are older, there’s still the bingo game and the food tastes the same. Only the faces have changed. They’re getting younger and younger each year.
We’re small enough for the high school seniors to parade to school on the first day of their senior year.
Someone knows someone who can get an eighteen wheeler and a flat-bed trailer. They wash it down, clean it up real good so the girls don’t get dirty. The seniors gather up and ride from one end of the boulevard to the high school. There’s a lot of shouting, blaring the horn, waving at the people headed to work.
A ritual for that last year of innocence.
When they get to the school, they gather around the flagpole and pray. It’s a student only thing.
I live between the funeral home and the cemetery. The big churches are downtown.
Three or four times a week, I watch another procession go by in front of my house. The shiny funeral car is first. Then the hearse. Right behind, sometimes it’s a hundred cars. On other days, it’s only three or four. All have their headlights on.
The number doesn’t matter, every car coming from the other direction pulls off the road and stops. A block away, the police car is in the middle of the intersection. The policeman standing at attention, holding his hat over his heart.
Small towns are good for doing what they do. I love that.
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