I spent the better part of last week in my hometown visiting family. Life is different there in the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills. It’s not the smallest town, but it certainly isn’t large – small enough where everybody knows everybody’s business anyway. And located in a county where the cattle outnumber the people. My cousin was coming there to join us and had to wait for a cattle drive to clear the highway – not uncommon in this country, but it sounds strange to “outsiders”:)
I spent the days playing “who’s that” and trying to recognize folks who have surely aged WAY more than I have. Surely. And nobody is just who they are – they’re so-and-so’s son or daughter. It goes something like this:Me: Who’s that?
Mom: Joe Blow
Me: I don’t remember him.
Mom: You know, John’s son?
Me: Nope, I still got nothin’.
Mom: You know – John was the mailman – the skinny one? And his wife worked at the grocery store for a while and they had the one boy, Joe. I think he had a sister, too. Older maybe…
Me: Hmmmm… Did they have a little black dog?
Mom: No, they raised chickens.
Me: OH! Now I remember!
OK, so it’s not quite that bad, but nearly. We also discuss the businesses in town in reference to what used to be there. So there’s a clothing store in the old H & M building and a hair salon in where the theater used to be. Just doesn’t seem right for the ceramic shop to be where the Donut Shop was – even after 25 years. There is progress, though. They have a couple of places where you can get a latte now - one even has a drive-through. Of course, you have to call ahead and tell them that you’re coming and then drive through the alley, but it’s TECHNICALLY a drive-through. We’re counting it.
In order for businesses to be viable in such a small town, they have to be a bit diverse. Like the western wear store that carries a full line of sporting gear. My favorite was the electronics store/pet store/shoe store. No kidding. You could buy a phone charger, a pair of tennis shoes and parakeet seed all in one place. Who needs mega-marts!
The gossip is also pretty entertaining. My grandmother is in a care facility which is still referred to as a “nursing home” where I come from. They get a lot of good gossip up there, but you’re never quite sure how much of it to believe. Some of those folks get confused now and again. Gramma spent the week telling everyone Annabelle “X” died. She even dredged up the alleged “affair” she had with the funeral director (remember folks, this would have happened a good 35-40 years ago IF it even happened!). Turns out is wasn’t Annabelle “X” who died – it was a totally different Annabelle. Oops.
I poke fun, but I've come to appreciate the charm of the small town and the natural beauty of the area. It’s probably as close to Mayberry as I’m ever going to get.