Honk, wave if you like small towns, too
When we were first married, my husband called me a hick. I think he meant I was “small town.”
I’m proud to be small town.
I don’t do well in the big city, I must admit. As much as I love all the culture and the big stores and great restaurants, I’ll give up choice for quiet and uncrowded any day.
Spend time with me and you’ll see that I still gawk at any building that’s taller than the Hotel Colorado. Heck, I gawk at the Hotel Colorado. Fast cars scare me. Crowds make me nervous.
Being small town isn’t a bad thing. For instance, I still keep in touch with people who were in my kindergarten class.
I read my hometown paper, the one I used to sell out on the streets every Thursday afternoon when I was a kid. For every 15-cent paper I sold, I got to keep 8 cents. A quarter meant more than double the profit.
I seldom venture far from home. I was 12 when I first crossed the Colorado border into another state. My dad took me fishing in Nebraska. It was fun, but I was happy to be back home.
I’ve lived in four towns in my life. Three of them are here in the Roaring Fork Valley and Glenwood Springs is the biggest of the four. To me, a trip to Grand Junction is a trip to the big city. I love to go to Denver with its museums and stores and amusement parks. I just can’t wait to round the last corner on Interstate 70 and coast into my driveway.
But things are changing. There’s more traffic and noise and it’s getting harder and harder to find privacy.
The face of town is changing, too. Last Sunday’s Post Independent offered a partial list of the local businesses that, for various reasons, have closed or will close in the near future. Staples, a big box business supply store, will soon open where Country General, a farm and ranch supply store once stood.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a small town “small town.”
A small town is where you can find a parking space in front of the store where you’re headed. If you can’t, then you’re still parked close enough to remember where you parked.
When you walk inside the store, the person behind the counter remembers your name, or at least remembers that you are a regular customer. On the rare occasions when there’s a long line at the supermarket or the bank or the post office, you usually know the folks standing in front of and behind you. You can pick up where you left off in your conversation with the clerk.
You can wave to the policemen in a small town without them getting suspicious. They’re rarely too busy or preoccupied not to wave back.
You can call your child’s teacher about a problem, if the teacher hasn’t already called you first.
If you honk at someone in a small town, they assume you’re honking because you know them and not because you want them to get out of the way. If you wave, they wave back, not because they know you, but because you waved.
A small town has businesses that treat you fairly because they want you to come back. You return because you know you’ll be treated fairly.
If I’m right on all of this, then, despite all the changes and growth, all the small businesses closing and the big chains targeting our area, Glenwood Springs is still a small town. We still have a locally owned movie theater and book store and lots of other great stores. We have good teachers, both in the public and private sectors. Some stores, like Mountain Valley Weavers, sell products made here in town.
We have locally produced honey and the Farmer’s Market is open during the summer, where anyone can buy locally produced fruits and vegetables and talk to the folks who grew them.
It does seem like every time we turn around, we get a load of big city dumped in our back yard. But how many of us who complain aren’t going to shop at Staples? How many of us don’t go to Wal-Mart or McDonald’s?
Having big stores doesn’t mean we have to act like we’re hardened citified folks who would just as soon mind our own business as help out a neighbor.
Being small town is a choice we make, not only in where we shop, but in how we treat each other. It means taking the time to be a good neighbor and to share the road or the sidewalk. It means looking out for each other and each other’s children.
It means getting involved in something, anything, that helps bring members of the community closer together. It means supporting each other.
I overheard a local business owner comment yesterday that small towns are going the way of the family farm. Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean I have to go with them.
Tamie Meck is a staff writer for the Post Independent. Her column appears every Tuesday.
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