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Monday, Sep. 26, 2016
Life in a Small TownPosted Tuesday, December 16, 2008, at 11:29 AM
This is the Best in Advance this year, folks. This display on Blair Street features flashing lights and music. The back yard is also decorated. A young man named Rod McClellan won the Christmas light contest, hands down.
The Advance Christmas Light Tour
When the mayor asked a group of us to get together for a one-time committee to judge the Christmas lights in Advance, I seriously wondered if we'd find anything to judge this year. I'm not sure if the Depression Grinch has stolen Christmas, but there seem to be fewer lights this year than last. This situation may not be unique to our town; a friend and I have toured the old section of Charleston for the last two Fridays - and there's not much of a show down there, either.
Anyway, I call the other four committee members, and we agree that we'd better get cracking before the ice storm moves in!
I've lived in Advance only about 33 years, so I find the local conversation quite colorful. I sit in the back seat of Doug and Billie Hiett's truck, while Chester Powers drives and we three women pack in the back seat, chattering like magpies.
We drive up and down practically every street in Advance. For some, all we have to do is peer down them into the darkness.
The down-home conversation goes something like this:
Billie: "No need to go down this street (It was all dark). There's all widows down here."
Doug: "Disqualify those lights over there: The deer fell over."
Emma: "Oh, look, there aren't any lights at the park - The churches usually have displays out there. I wonder what happened?"
Chester: "This is a pretty good one. Who lives here?"
The conversation promptly turns to who lives in the house, who they're married to, who they USED to be married to, where they USED to live, whether they once owned a business that went bankrupt, whether they like to go out to the Griffin's auction at the VFW on Friday nights, the names of every child and grandchild, where each of their relatives live, and how everyone in the family died (if they're dead).
I have a great deal of difficulty following this conversation, but I manage to absorb some of it, though I can't use any of it.
I write the name of the house owner down on my little notepad, along with the address, and we move on, weaving through the darkness, looking for lights.
Emma: "Let's go try that new section by Tilley Street. They should have some good lights."
We luck out in that western subdivision and find the number three contestant, which features a cute little lighted ferris wheel. Most of the houses, however, are dark. At least one house has a bunch of cars in the drive and yard, and there is speculation on whether a party is going on and who might be there.
As we're traveling to the east side of town, we unexpectedly see a large number of lights through the trees.
Everyone: "Hey! Look! What's that?" Lights flash and music plays, as we circle the block to check out a modest little house on Blair Street, which is in an older section of town.
We pull up and watch as 20,000 lights twinkle and sing from the front and back yard. Then the conversation starts again.
Emma: "Whose house is this?"
Doug: "I don't know." (and if he doesn't know, no one does.)
Me: "Okay, I'll go knock on the door and find out."
A handsome young fella opens the door and doesn't shoot me, which is a good sign.
Me at the front door: "Hi, I'm Madeline from the newspaper, and (motioning to the truck) we're the mayor's committee to choose the best Christmas lights in Advance. What's your name?"
Chester: (hanging out the truck window)"Are you serving egg nog??"
Rob McClelland cheerfully comes out to the truck, and Doug introduces him around to our little committee, who proceed to find out all about him in five minutes. His life will never be his own, from now on...
Rob tells us that he has, in fact, been doing this display for several years, adding lights every year. It may be a small town, but none of us has ever seen these lights - so what does that tell you? We drive all the way to Cape to look at lights, but we overlook those right at home.
After we get a winner and two runner-ups, we head back to Doug and Billie's for coffee, pecan pie, and more good-time conversation.
When I get home, I call Rob McClelland and tell him he won first place and to go to the bank Tuesday and pick up his savings bond. He's thrilled. He says the picture in the paper would have been enough. If the photo doesn't get preempted by a picture of the ice storm, it should be in the NSC tomorrow.
Oh, yeah, hometown papers - winner of the Christmas Light contest, first tomato of the summer, most unusual squash - That's where it's at, folks! Small town America continues through war, depression, and political unrest! Life is good!
From the icy hills of rural Tillman, Missouri, this is your small town reporter, Madeline, signing off on another beautiful, pre-Christmas morning. Y'all keep warm, y'hear?
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.