Small-town Living

This week,
I share a little small-town experience.

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I am from a small town in middle America where everyone knows your name.  Or at least, your last name.  The gardener, the postmaster, church folk, and farmers.  Teachers and doctors and townspeople.  I head into the local coffee shop only to see my former junior year high school World Literature teacher (who is now retired and seems to love his moped).  Last Friday, I went to the local wine sellers to hear my old high school friend's dad play guitar.  (A fun tidbit: he used to teach me how to play that instrument.)  Even the horse-shoeing guy that no longer is the horse-shoer instructor knows my parents.  My dad was a student of his at his school.

Living in this rural, large small town for the summer, I have appreciated walking somewhat daily, and often, twice a day.  Over the past couple of months, the local neighbors have realized this rhythm and even country folk.  One slowed down in his red truck and said in a good-natured way, "You're going to wear out the road."

The other day, I picked up some photos from the local Wal-mart, and I heard from behind, "Are you the one who walks?"  The small-town girl in me automatically turned around, knowing someone knew me, and started chatting, knowing what they were referring to.

"I am.  I walk in the morning and evening after supper."

"We live on the corner."

After further inquiry, I realized what corner it was--after all, just a couple of nights ago, I had waved to them from the road as they were inside having dinner.  I knew who they were though they didn't really know who I was.  He was the man that was my father's horseshoeing instructor about forty years ago; I had known that he lived in that house.  On that late summer evening in September, their kitchen light created a faint glow.

They lived on the corner in the country on the property I have loved since I was a little girl.  This summer, their house had been my turn-around-point where I get the gorgeous views of the gentle Illinois hills rolling off into the distance before turning around and seeing my small town from afar:  tilled fields melding into other ripe fields ready for harvest flowing into the local hospital where I was born and town square beyond. 

The fields aren't really harvested, but I bet they will be by next week.  On my walks, I have appreciated being a companion to the corn:  seeing it grow, mature, dehydrate, and shrink.  The vibrant summer green changing to an autumnal crisp gold.  Likewise, on these walks, the corn and the different birds above--the hawks, doves, swallows, finches, sparrows, and one particular heron--and even the frogs and snakes below--have been witness to my own journey of change.

That afternoon, standing in the store, it was small town living: all three of us in conversation which ranged from me sharing who-I-was-and-how-I-knew-them to let-me-know-if-you-ever-sell-your-property to remind-your-parents-we-need-to-go-on-that-double-date to stop-over-on-your-next-walk.  Upon knowing my maiden name, he grinned and simply pointed to an emblem in the upper right corner of his faded t-shirt which was a horseshoe with the name of the school and my hometown.