My Old Cow Town
Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm falling out of love. 

It's been happening for awhile now. Bit by bit, things have changed and now....I am disheartened, disillusioned and just plain unhappy.

It's my town that's lost its luster. 

A few weeks ago, we were selling our old minivan. Since my house is buried in the woods on a chunk of land, my Hubby put the van at the top of the road to sell. Simple enough. 

A few mornings later, I was taking my Julia to school. As we pulled out of our drive onto the road, we both glanced at the minivan. My first thought was The Hubby had left the window unrolled. My second genius thought was how pretty the smashed glass sparkled in the morning sunlight. 

Julia and I gasped at the same time. 

How can people be that mean-to smash in the windows of a car, just for the cheap thrill?

It festered in me. Just as the lines of traffic that snarl through these once quiet, country roads, now do. Just like the treeless, zero-lot-line neighborhoods that have invaded us, eating our small town with rapid stealth like the toxic Kudzu vine that has overtaken the South. Just like the big box stores and the plethora of franchises that have set their sights upon us, setting up shop along the main roads. Just like the crime log in our local paper that has grown from a few lines to page after page.


I moved to this town when I was nine years old, when it was an unfettered, small country town. There was no interstate connecting us to the big cities. There was one high school and more churches than all the stores combined. The kids from the schools in the big city would say, "Oh, you're from the Cow Town." And they were right. 

A cow town high school with a world class reputation for being a wrestling powerhouse, nonetheless. Our high school holds the national title in wrestling for the longest winning streak of 34 years. My brothers were all a part of that team and as a teenaged girl it was manna from heaven to be surrounded by all the wrestling champion buddies of my brothers, I tell you that. It's why all my friends always wanted to hang out at my house. It was swarming in wrestlers every hour of the day.

This is a shot from one of the many championships we won. My brother is on the left. And I may or may not have dated some of the wrestlers in this lineup. Let's just keep those memories fuzzy, shall we? But, for the record, I did not date my brother. That would be super gross. That would be waaaay too small townish.

Back to my story. I won't go into all the details of the sweetness that comes with the simplicity of small town life. I'll just give you one example that sums it up for me.

We lived on a country road and around the corner from us was The Egg Farm. The Egg Farm was based on one concept: trust. 

The Egg Farm was really just the enclosed side porch of a little house. The people who lived there had a backyard full of chickens. They kept the side porch stocked with open crates, each one filled with 18 eggs. All you had to do, was drive up their circular driveway, slide open the unlocked sliding glass door, being sure to close it behind you since the room was air conditioned to keep the eggs fresh. You grabbed yourself some eggs, put your cash in the money tray and went on your way with your crate of eggs. If you needed change, you just made yourself some, since the tray was always open and unmanned. There was no one ever there. There was no need for it. No one would think to steal from The Egg Farm. Because, what would your Momma say about that?

Now, I'm not going to pretend the bad never happened. I distinctly remember a weird kid, who if he wasn't institutionalized by now, I'm sure he's a serial killer somewhere. He murdered his mom's elderly cleaning lady, (there is so much wrong with that sentence) and left her in the Kmart parking lot, sitting up in the driver's seat all dead and such. She sat there for a couple of days before anyone noticed. Totally explainable, when you find out that our Kmart was the only department store in town and THE go-to place at the time. People were busy racing into the Kmart, so it would be easy to overlook a dead, elderly cleaning lady in a driver's seat. 

But besides that, it was an idyllic life. Of course, once I moved into adulthood, I thought I'd outgrown it and I moved away. 

When The Hubby and I were expanding our family, we decided to move back to the small town. My family was here and it was still just that, a place filled to the brim with small town charm. 

The annual Fourth of July parade was here. 

This is a parade as all parades should be. This is a parade where you stand on the edge of the route, not having to worry about being smushed by rude morons slobbering over dollar store beads. This is a parade where the only flashing comes from the siren lights on the miniature cars of the Shriners. This is a parade where you stay busy waving and hugging all the beauty queens, the marching band kids, the Rough Riders, the soldiers, the policemen and the politicians because if you're not related to them, you either went to school with them, lived down the street from them, babysat them or dated them. Well. . .  um, at least in my case. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

And even as the world marched on in progress, when I moved back, our little town had stayed put in its small town ways. 

Here's the True Story I have to cement my case. 

My girls were young and I was on my way to get the Odawg from kindergarten. As I drove down one of the many country roads that took me to her school, I came upon two calves standing in the road. 

That's right. Two baby cows just standing there in the middle of the road without a clue, as if they were saying, "OK, we made the great escape. We're here. What now? Where's the grass?" 

And as I drove up on these two beauties, I did what any girl who's proud to say she's from a cow town would do, I pulled over to the side of the road, told my two little ones in car seats to sit tight and then wrangled myself some baby calves. 

Here's a little somethin' somethin' you might not know about me, Internet. 

I was a real to goodness cowgirl.

My parents had some sort of deal with some cow folks in our town. We would raise the calves to a certain age and then after that, we would ship them off to a farm where they would live the rest of their days, grazing and growing fat and then....well, we WERE farm folk. And you DO realize that succulent steaks don't grow on trees, right?

But, anyway, we kept them when they were still cute and small. After that, I just tried not to think about it as I was eating that delicious steak. 

Now, when I say WE raised the babies, what I meant was my brothers and sisters and I were in charge of the feedings. And what that consisted of was getting up when the babies started bawling, usually around 5ish. My mom would be waiting with ginormous sterilized baby bottles. These baby bottles:

Here are two of my sisters coming back from an afternoon feeding.

My sister and I spent this past Thanksgiving weekend going through boxes upon boxes of slides. There was another slide we had marked to scan, one where one of our calves was kicking up his heels and tearing about our backyard with my brother in tow. For some reason, it didn't make the cut for the scanner. And since I haven't even cleaned my house yet, I am not about to go back through hours of slides again looking for it. So, for today, this is what you're getting. 

We would trudge out to the plot tucked away at the end of the backyard, several times a day with our massive baby bottles to feed those critters. 

We were instructed that if those bottles were to ever land in the dirt, we would need to come back to the house and re-sterilize the nipple. My father warned us that the amount of bacteria in dirt was enough to kill a baby calf. I never understood this, really, seeing as how cows live in, you know, the dirt, but I was not about to have the price of a cow hanging over my head.

And oh, how those calves liked to head butt as they were drinking their baby bottle. They would head butt and heat butt those bottles and since we were, most of the time, dozing, as we stood there feeding those cows before the sun was even up, more often than not, those giant bottles would plop into the dirt.  So, off I would trudge the length of that backyard, which at 5:00 am, felt like the route of the NYC marathon.

Now that I look back, I'm thinking...stinkin' cows.

So, fast forward to the future and my cowgirl experience had now come in handy. I made my chuckin' cow noises. I grabbed those bad boys by the fleshy spot behind their ears. They bucked a little, but I just grabbed a little firmer, letting them know who was in charge and I led them off the road to one of the houses lining the country path.

Now, here's where it gets good.

I knocked on one door that had an open gate in its backyard. No one was home, so I took my cows and headed over to the next house. A woman answered the door, seemingly unsurprised, as if she often had visitors showing up holding onto their cows. I explained to her that I had found these cows in the road and asked if perchance, they were hers.

Without even batting an eye, she told me Internet, no they were not hers. They were her neighbors who weren't home but, "Just go on and put them in my backyard with the llamas. I'll take care of em till they get home."

That's right, the llamas.

And I did just that, staying as far away from the creepy llamas as possible. I then hurried back to the car where my babies sat watching their mamma wrangle some calves.

That house sold out a few years ago to a zero-lot-line greed-meister.

Last week, a local Facebook friend informed us there was a shooting at the neighborhood park near her house. We old towners on Facebook bemoaned the fact that our small town has drifted away.

The Hubby and I have our sights set on Northern California. The day is looming up ahead, still a little dim light, but growing brighter every moment. We will find us a small town with ambience and charm and the beautiful grapes of that valley. But, until then...every once and awhile, my small town pops back up, showing its charming face.

A few months back, a guy in a pickup truck decided to do a u-turn on our property. My Hubby came across him right after he ran over our water pipe- the one that stands 3 feet off the ground, the one that I have no earthly idea how he managed to overlook the white pipes as large as a first grader. He damaged his truck and we had no water for a few hours.

My Hubby came down to report to me the news that we had no water thanks to the obviously blind guy in the pickup truck. He handed me the guy's business card and my eyes lingered over the blind dude's last name.

As My Hubby walked out the door to get back to Stevie Wonder who was waiting for AAA to tow him. (seriously, a three foot water pump), I yelled, "Ask him, if he's related to 'Dehlia.'"

A little while later my phone rang, it was My Hubby at the top of the road, "Yeah, Jim here says, 'Dehlia' is his second cousin twice removed." This is how we do it in the South every cousin is assigned a number and every cousin is removed a couple of times over. And what any of that means, I have no utter idea.

I then informed My Hubby that 'Dehlia', had been the talk of our old Bronco cheerleading team when, in learning to drive, she had mistaken the gas for the brake and had ran her father's car straight through their kitchen.

My Hubby delighted in reporting this back to Jim while I was still on the phone. Jim said, "Yeah, I'd heard somethin' about that."

My Hubby didn't even pause when he said, "Dude, it must be a genetic trait."

I'm no geneticist, but I don't think jacked up driving is a genetic trait like male pattern baldness.

I told Jim to give "Dehlia" my best when he came back the next day with a check to pay for the pump damages.

So, there's still that. The fact that it's hard to get away with anything in this town. It's why I try to never beep my horn at anyone no matter how douchey they're driving. Someone might just tell my mom I was rude.

Today's Definite Download: "Feels Like Home" by Randy Newman and Bonnie Raitt. Randy Newman is incomparable in songwriting and then you add, Bonnie Raitt and have splendor.

And because wherever I lay my hat, my sweet memories will always be with those stinkin' cows and that crapload of brothers and sisters of mine and those sweaty, hot wrestlers and all the beauty of a place that was once the perfect small town.


June Gardens said...

Okay, you write this tome and I pop in and don't comment on it. How much do you hate me? Yesterday on my blog you thought you were paired with Erin, but you are paired with Mamz. See my blog today. Everything got messed up cause so many people commented at once. When I am done going on EVERYONE'S BLOG and telling them this, I will come back and read your tome.

Anonymous said...

There is so much to be said about small town living. I grew up all over the country (my father was in the Air Force). Each Base we lived on what a small town. Everyone had your back, everyone cared.

I'm still waiting for the big turn around. The backlash against new construction and big box stores. I'd like to think texting will be in that backlash, too.

ProudSister said...

Its kind of cruel that the poor toddler was forced to carry the giant cow bottle. Poor me! That town is a contradiction. I got yelled at by a police man for beeping at another driver during a grid-lock situation in a parking lot of a strip mall full of chain stores. I still love it even if everyone doesn't know each other's names anymore. That was a great tribute!

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