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Life in a Small Town

Posted Sunday, November 11, 2007, at 8:46 PM

We're always talking about the differences between the regions where we live. These characteristics of a small town have been bouncing around in my head, and I think the only way to get rid of them in to write them down.

You know you live in a small town when:

The people you grew up with all know your middle name, because they remember your mother shouting, "Billy Bob Bennett - You get home this minute!"

Everyone knows what church you belong to.

Directions are given as follows: "Well, you know where Juanita Holder lives, don'tcha? It's catty-cornered across the street from her."

Or even better - "You know where Doc Campbell's office used to be? Well, the NSC office is right across the street."

Or even better - "You remember the old car wash that used to be the turn-around on the cruise strip? Well, the NSC office in it that building."

A long line of traffic forms behind very large farm machinery going through town.

A "long line" consists of three cars.

Everybody waves at the Chief of Police, parked in the old gym parking lot, watching traffic. Only outsiders or teenagers speed.

Everybody reads the police report for news of their relatives and the kids of their friends.

Social events revolve around the school and are scheduled to avoid the refinishing of the old and new gym floors.

All the town meetings are coordinated, so they don't conflict.

You can call anyone in the phone book with the same last name, and they're all related, so they tell you the right number.

When a new name is mentioned, the conversation stops until everyone can be briefed on who they're related to. This discussion goes back several generations.

The closest place to buy live bait is in Arab.

When a dog is loose, everyone knows who it belongs to.

An auction is the height of the social season.

There are no traffic lights and the City Council removes two of the four stop signs on what used to be the main drag through town.

The only traffic after six p.m. is on the teenager's cruise strip.

A stranger can come into town and get directions to anyone's house by asking some old guy raking leaves in his front yard. All they need is a first name.

There are very few "secrets," as everybody knows everybody else's business (or at least they think they do).

If you want to know something, ask the "coffee shop crowd," (though I don't know where they'd be, since the Rhodes station closed down!)

I'd love to hear some of your small town descriptors!

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So true, lovebooks! Never say anything about anybody!!!

Somebody's always embroiled in a major battle, too! Even within the gene pool!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Dec 4, 2007, at 6:10 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Small towns - You go to an auction, and the next day everybody in town knows what everyone bought - and what they paid for it!

I have to add this one because I learned it the hard way....You know you live in a small town if you know to NEVER refer to the "shallow gene pool." Also, you know you live in a small town if you are keenly aware that if you gossip about someone to somebody, that somebody will definitely be "kin to" that person!!

-- Posted by lovebooks on Tue, Dec 4, 2007, at 5:19 PM

I know a little about Warrensburg and lived there before the Super Wal Mart came. There wasn't anything there before that. They might like to think there was.

-- Posted by I.B. Le Truth on Sun, Nov 18, 2007, at 10:56 PM

To my knowledge the most influential cause of the loss of service that is being lamented in this blog is patronage of Walmart and other national chain stores. People have chosen the low prices of chain stores over paying more at a mom and pop, and likely locally owned store that gives superior service. For example, I was in Warrenburg recently, and during the day the downtown area looks like Baghdad after sundown -- it is deserted except for half-a-dozen bars catering to college kids. According to local people the devastation to the downtown happened after Walmart opened outside of town. That same phenomena has happened all over.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sun, Nov 18, 2007, at 4:37 PM

At the Walmart stores, they let you load up a shopping cart and take it out to your car - Then they hire "cart boys" to bring them back into the store in long lines. I think that if you have a really large item which won't fit in a cart, they'll tell you to pull up out front, and someone will load the item for you.

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Nov 16, 2007, at 7:41 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I keep thinking of more examples of small town life:

You know you live in a small town when the UPS driver knows that you won't be home, so he delivers your package to the school where you teach - in a nearby town!

Or when your mom and sister send your son a "giggle stick" and the rural mail carrier brings it all the way up to the house, so she can be there when you open it!

Or when your sister can find your babysitter's house by asking someone on the street where "Betty, who keeps kids" lives.

When I went to school up north in a very large town,I never saw carry outs.and my mom says that she's never seen carryouts in Poplar Bluff,and most of the grocery stores in Cape Girardeau.I think you would have to "request" carryout service in these places.

Stoddard County,the last beacon of a civilized society .

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Fri, Nov 16, 2007, at 7:18 AM

As for flirting with bag boys, I don't think that's such a good idea! Though maybe I've seen too many stalker movies!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Nov 15, 2007, at 9:58 PM

Hahaha! Thirty or forty years?! Thanks, FJGuy! Try NOW!!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Nov 15, 2007, at 9:54 PM

GL, in cities bagboys (and baggirls) commonly take out groceries for older folks or otherwise impaired customers. You just need to wait another 30 or 40 years and you'll be catered to like that.

While I'm not suggesting that YC do it, it is a simple fact of male behavior that she could probably get her groceries taken to her car routinely if she flirted with the bagboy or acted "helpless." (Now don't throw anything at me!!)

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Nov 15, 2007, at 3:51 PM

At our local grocery store, we actually have occasional "bag girls." I admit that it makes me feel guilty to let one of those little things carry my groceries out to my car!

And, FJGuy - You missed "Youngest Child's" point: In the big city, the bag boys simply bag the groceries - Their job is NOT to carry the bags to your car. Small town bag boys are still expected to be helpful.

I miss the days when store clerks were helpful and could tell you something about the products. Actually, that's another thing that we still have in small towns -- if, of course, we still have stores! Sadly, there aren't many of those left, either.

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Nov 15, 2007, at 7:21 AM

YC, you "think the bagboy was hitting" on you? If you are that unsure he must not have actually said or done anything other than help you as a part of his job -- although that doesn't mean he didn't "think" you are cute!

MD, I agree that two very positive characteristics of a small town are that people are generally more hospitable than city folk, and it is easier to get across town at "rush" hour.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Wed, Nov 14, 2007, at 10:17 PM

This one's not funny but it's nice to experience. You know you live in a small town when the bagboys at the grocery store automatically push your cart to your car and load the groceries in the trunk for you. I only once experienced this in the city, and I think the bagboy was hitting on me.

Usually the small town bagboys know which car is yours, too!

-- Posted by Youngest Child on Wed, Nov 14, 2007, at 9:27 PM


You get the prize! (which, incidentally is a dozen yellow squash...right, Madeline?)

-- Posted by bringwine on Tue, Nov 13, 2007, at 11:37 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Bringwine, you are so right! The whole subject becomes even more unique when you consider how people don't lock their car doors in a small town...but the zuccini and yellow squash trick takes the prize!

There are also just so many things you can do with a big bag of cucumbers, if you don't can pickles! I still have four cucumbers and three turnips in the tiny frig in the NSC office!

Everybody in a small town knows what kind of car you drive, so, in addition to the excess garden produce issue, there are other considerations. My sister was visiting this weekend, and we left her car parked in front of the NSC office when we went up to the Veteran's Ceremony at the school. I had to laugh, because I knew the rumors it would start, when the townspeople saw an unfamiliar vehicle out front!

Sure enough, one of my friends said, "Oh, your sister is here. I thought you had a new boyfriend!"

Hahahaha! You gotta love a small town!

You know you live in a small town when you lock your car doors in the summer to keep people from puting sacks of zucchini inside.

-- Posted by scotswoman on Tue, Nov 13, 2007, at 11:30 PM

A small town uses an excuse when someone dies to fix a big dinner and everyone is invited. We're all family.

-- Posted by changedname on Tue, Nov 13, 2007, at 2:16 PM

You live on the main drag in Essex if you have to not only rake leaves,but cotton out of your yard. Hwy 114 residents not only enjoy the above,but car trash and chicken feathers.

We have a really sweet lady who collects the water bill in town,and she sadly knows who has Alzheimer's first,by how many times a month they come in to pay their bill-I doubt that happens in the Metro area as much!

Thank goodness for busybodies,shut-ins,nosy neighbors and gossipers,it really forms a highly sophisticated "Neighborhood Watch" program that keeps the crime down.You never know whose watching,but rest assured they are,and they have the sheriff on speed dial!

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Mon, Nov 12, 2007, at 12:47 PM

Our small town city hall has a copy of the Ten Commandments on the wall, and every Board of Aldermen meeting is opened with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Nov 12, 2007, at 7:23 AM


I recall, as a transplant from the "Nawth," realizing that folks actually charged groceries/and or fuel at the local general store (which of course is no more). The shop owner's theory was, "I know where you live!" After thirty years, there are still a few stations around whose owners don't mind a patron signing a paper slip for a tank of gas and keeping it on file till payday! Only in a small town.

Also, there is still prayer preceding a sports event and a student still sings the national anthem prior to a basketball game. I hope that tradition never ends.

-- Posted by bringwine on Sun, Nov 11, 2007, at 9:17 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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