Amber

Life in a small town is the greatest. 

I love that it takes me a minute to get to the nearest store for a snack, a smoke, or some random thing I must have. In the same minute, I can make it to church, or a City Council meeting, anywhere really. 

I love that I can drive down virtually any street in my town and see a place where I’ve spent some significant moment in my life. I can drive a mile and see the house that my entire family grew up in. I mean, I can see it in ruins, but I can still see it. I can drive a mile in another direction and see the giant, haunted house that once belonged to my mother. Down another road, I can see my favorite cousin living his best life in what once was our great-grandmother’s house. I often wonder if he hears the bears on the roof like Pearl did. 

I sort of like seeing people I’ve known my entire life and recognizing that they know me well enough to understand that I probably don’t want to talk to them. 

I don’t mind that my daily commute or a trip to an actual grocery store takes me 20 minutes. That’s 40 minutes a day that I can just sit in silence with my thoughts and with my ongoing conversation with the Big Guy. Forty silent minutes where my only responsibility is staying in between the lines and below the speed limit.

I enjoy working in a small town. I have time to develop friendships with those people I interact with, time to connect with other humans when I feel the need, which is rare but does occasionally happen. 

It’s nice to work in a place where you can meet a city official and know that there will be moments in which they actually recognize you back and aren’t just pretending, so they don’t offend a constituent. I don’t even mind that some of them are human enough that they don’t even care if they offend one of us; honestly, I quite enjoy that. 

While small-town life is incredible, it’s also the biggest load of nonsense. 

The feeling of safety and security is gone. Long dead are the days of leaving doors unlocked and assuming your belongings and even your self are safe. Instead of jumping out of my still cranked car to run in for a soda, I now make sure to click that lock button more than once. I listen closely for that beep beep that says you’re not getting into my car without a struggle. 

Gone are the nights where it was okay to fall asleep with doors unlocked or even windows open. Around every corner lurks some loser just waiting to take the things that mean the most to you...or even the things that mean nothing to you but are still yours. 

Shades must be drawn, blinds lowered, curtains closed because it’s not even safe sitting in your house assuming you’re hidden from the world because sometimes the world is peeking through your bedroom window. 

Small town people love to talk, don’t they? The chatter is constant! 

Those same smiling faces you saw a minute ago are now spewing your name like venom from a rattler’s fang. Don’t look at the guy next to you either because no matter who you are, you are not immune. Your name has been the butt of someone’s joke. 

Townies love to think they know things too, huh? You know what they say about assumptions.

A group of small-town chatterboxes can kick around the cow patties all day never letting on that everything they’ve said was entirely contrived. Somebody’s grandma thought she heard Jolene’s cousin say that Jim Bob’s sister’s friend did this or that. Now Grandma’s in the middle of Wal-Mart carrying on like she knows every detail of this or that. 

They all have the answers, those small-town know-it-alls. They know best and can do no wrong. They have all made the assumptions and never for one second tried to find out the actual truth about anything but those jaws keep flapping and those fingers keep tapping. 

Except there’s something these townholes forget...the same assumptions they’ve made about “this and that” and those long-winded nothing conversations didn’t sit in dead air. Someone else’s grandma stood in the middle of Wal-Mart telling tales about you, and you, and you. 

The things that make this rural life so great can spin around in their skin like a dang honey badger. Things that on one hand bring comfort and occasionally even joy are on the other hand the things that bring the deepest sorrow.

Amber Lollar is the senior reporter for The Henderson News. Her e-mail address is <reporter@thehendersonnews.com>. © 2020, Henderson Newspapers Inc.

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