A lot of you reading this have no idea what it is like to live in a town of 5,000 people. You probably have lots of preconceived ideas about what life in such a small town must be like. Some of your notions may be accurate. But there are some things about life in a small town that can be known only by living there.
I was at our small, local hospital (yes a town of 5,000 has its own hospital) the other day when I noticed something that reminded me why I love our town. In the grassy area to one side of the hospital there was a hitching rail.
Again, if you aren’t from around here, you would see the structure and have no idea what it was or what it was for. Let me illuminate for you.
On the outskirts of our town there are several families who are followers of the Amish faith. They are the ones who wear mostly black, their women wear dresses, men have beards, they have no electricity or plumbing, and they travel by horse and buggy.
When they arrive at a destination they have to hitch (tie) their horses to something in order to keep them from wandering off. That’s what a hitching rail is for.
The Amish are friendly and hard working people. But they are definitely a minority, even in our area.
And that is what struck me about this hitching rail at the hospital. I don’t know the statistics that would show the percentage of patients who use the hospital that are Amish, but it has to be very small.
It is worth noting that our local grocery store also has a series of hitching posts for the Amish who shop there.
What all this says to me is that we try and accommodate each other in my town. We don’t all share the same views on things, but that is ok. We’ll do what we can to make things run as smoothly as we can by helping each other.
After one of our unusually heavy snows this past winter, one Amish man hitched his horses to a piece of machinery and “plowed” the snow off the road for all his non-Amish, automobile-driving neighbors.
Believe it or not we even have had our version of “Earnest T. Bass” living among us for several years. Remember that character from the Andy Mayberry show? Odd and eccentric would be compliments if given to Earnest T Bass. Barney once remarked to Andy about Earnest T, “He’s a nut!”
Our version, whose name I will change to Tommy, was just a little off center. He came from a family tree that had no branches, if you know what I mean. His dipper didn’t hold any water.
Tommy talked with a severe nasal whine and had a slight speech impediment that sometimes left you guessing what he said. He told me once about an accident he had while riding on a horse. “Someone pu’ a huckleburh under by faddle and dat horse fwohed me off!”
He always needed a shave. His hair was plastered to his head with what could have been Pennzoil 10W30. His clothes never seemed to fit his oddly proportioned body.
Tommy loved Elvis. He once had a bit too much to drink and decided to sit on the hood of his car and sing “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog.” That wouldn’t have been too bad if he’d done it in his own yard and if he hadn’t taken his shirt off. But he chose to do this when parked outside our grocery store on a busy Saturday afternoon. The police came and quietly and discreetly eased him to a less frequented area.
I’m sure that attention made Tommy happy because the only thing he loved more than Elvis was the idea of becoming a policeman. There was a time he bought an old van that he used several cans of spray paint to paint on one side what was supposed to be the head of a German Shepherd. It turned out looking more like a portrait of Sammy Davis, Jr. One the other side of the van he painted “K-9 Unit.”
He was regularly seen patrolling the roads, sunglasses in place and hat pulled down low. He got in trouble more than once for using a blue light to try and enforce whatever rule suited his fancy at the moment.
Another phase Tommy went through was when he became fascinated with wanting to have a tow truck. He bought a dilapidated pickup truck and built a crude wooden frame in the bed, complete with chains and hooks. It was something only Fred Sanford would have been proud of.
Tommy actually tried to use his tow truck a couple of times which resulted in the complete destruction of his wooden creation. But in typical Tommy fashion, he wasn’t deterred. He picked up the pieces and threw them in the back of the truck. Before long he was driving the rebuilt wrecker and scanning the highways for stranded drivers.
Then there was the time Tommy wanted to run for mayor. I was pumping gas when I saw him approaching. Dressed in baggy double-knit plaid pants, a white shirt that his ample girth wouldn’t let him tuck in, and a neck tie that had to be eight inches wide, he could have been a clown escaped from a circus. He was red-faced and sweating from all his walking.
It took a few breathless tries on his part but I finally understood him to say that he was trying to get enough signatures to qualify for running for mayor. I looked at his list and, sure enough, he already had twenty-two signatures.
I often commented that if Tommy lived in a big city somewhere, he’d have been shot years ago. But fortunately he lived in a town that recognized he meant no harm to anyone, so he was mostly overlooked.
Yeah, I know that there are lots of inconveniences about living in a small town. But for my part, those are outweighed by the advantages of a sense of community and people looking out for each other.