About five years ago, I drove out to California for the first time and started working on a project over farmers. One of the first things that I noticed was the sense of community.
Although the farmers were 2-5 miles or more apart, they had a close relationship. They communicated frequently and they when one called for help, they would go and help. They would share vegetables that they grew or helped with firewood. It was nice. I forgot how that felt. It made me realize how for the past several years, I didn’t know any of my neighbors that were a stone’s throw away. Sometimes you get a hello or head nod if you’re both outside, but we never exchanged names. And Im sure there are several people who do know their neighbors but more often than not, I found that the people I did ask, had never met their neighbors. I find that kind of sad.
I realized that there are so many stories right here in my own country. I have been driving from Texas to California and back for the past five years now. I always go a different way, mostly taking the back roads. Every year, I notice that these tiny towns seem to be drying up. I find that buildings are shut down and just left as they were the day people abandoned them. The trash near the gas pumps aren’t emptied, every thing’s still left in the store and the closed sign hanging at a tilt with cobwebs. I was born in a small town, so even though I was raised in the city, both sets of my grandparents still lived in the country. I was raised on southern hospitality, open doors and a small town mentality. As I got older and less frequently visited my grandparents, I slowly forgot how close knit the communities are in small towns.
Yesterday, I left my friends home in Silver City, NM and was gong to head to California, taking the back roads of course. I drove through a few ghost towns, taking photos of the vacant buildings. I drove a little further and passed a huge fireworks stand in the middle of nowhere. I slowed down and turned around. I got out and looked around the stand.
“What can I do for ya little missy?”, said Richard Nicolds.
“Im just driving around stopping in small towns and getting to know the people. I have noticed that a lot of them are failing due to the economy not being able to support the jobs that were once here.”
I ended up talking to him for about two hours. He gave me some fireworks for the refreshing conversation and I went on my way. I drove just a few miles down the road and stoped to get something to eat in a small diner. There were two young ladies who were about 18 that worked there. I started talking to them about small towns. They couldn’t wait to get out. As I talked to them, they had fun growing up here but they were ready to travel and venture out.
As I sat in the diner and talked to the girls, I decided to stay for a couple of days. I drove back to the fireworks stand to see what Richard was doing. When I got there, his wife was there. They were telling stories. Richard is funny and has an old school witty sense of humor, making me laugh out loud several times. Granny, reminded me of my Nonnie, just a sweet lady that raised her kiddos to be loving and accepting.
Richard started playing the guitar for me. The grandson, Jarod, and Granny rode down to the house to get the music book and then she and their son, Sam, joined in. It was quite beautiful. There we were, sitting in this huge fireworks tent in the middle of no where and these people so graciously let me into their life. After the music sesh was over, Granny asked where I was staying, “Camping nearby,” I said. She said I should stay with her. I said no at first, and then I thought, “You know what… why not?”
So I followed her over to her home. Her husband had to stay in the fireworks stand so no one would steal anything. An 83 year old man sleeping the fireworks stand! Crazy.
They were worried about what I thought of their home. I just thought it was so gracious of her to offer me a place to stay. It was a trailer that had an added on part to it. It was her mothers when she was still alive. It was old and creaky. She kept apologizing about the clutter and the squeaky floor. There was just some old newspapers and egg cartons on the kitchen table. I didn’t care. It was homey. There were paintings of cattle and old barns on the wall on the living room along with faith quotes written on wooden boards and dated family photos.
We went to the back room to make the bed. The sheets matched but she was upset that the pillowcases didn’t. The quilt was handmade by her and some other ladies. It had beautiful flowers embroidered on it. She got me some delicious well water and we sat in the living room and chatted some more. We were talking about small towns and I asked her what her favorite part of a small town is. She said, “You know, a great thing about small towns is, even if you are very different from your neighbor and you may not share the same values, if you ask for help, they will help. That’s what we do. I also think it makes kids independent and self reliant. They roam around the country side for hours making forts and finding things to do in the forest. In the city, it is so hard to keep kids entertained, and most of the time they end up on their phones or computers.”
It was late and I went to bed to upload photos and write while she stayed up to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, that she records everyday. In the morning she cooked me omelettes and wouldn’t let me do the dishes. I insisted, saying my mother raised me to do the dishes at a guest’s home but she said, “Well, your mama won’t know.”
She invited me to her grandson’s wedding on Saturday, I think I am going to have to do that. Tomorrow I will be tagging along with the girls from the cafe as they go on a hike before work.
Sum up of just one day in a tiny town. I find it fascinating that folks will open up their hearts and their doors for a complete stranger. Same with the young ladies at the cafe, offering to have me along for their hike before work. Pretty. Amazing.
If you made it this far, your a champ! THANKS for reading about the journey!