Uppermost House: Shout out to a small town

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

I love small towns.

Specifically the small collection of rural towns that have surrounded and comforted me and my family for the last 34 years.

“But they’re so insular,” say the naysayers from away. “Everybody knows everybody else’s business.” As if constantly locking and unlocking doors and not knowing the people on the floor above you and never making eye contact when trudging the thronging sidewalk is somehow better.

True, it is hard to be anonymous in a tiny town, like one day when you’re walking toward the library and a neighbor shouts from over by the diner.

“What are you feeding your broccoli this year?”

“Nothing.”

“Well, it doesn’t seem to be working.”

But I love small towns precisely because everybody knows everybody else’s business.

I’m back at the library wanting the latest Malcolm Gladwell masterpiece and the ladies know I never have my library card, but it doesn’t matter because they have my name up on their screen before I even reach the counter.

My friend at the bank is well aware that I don’t know my college daughter’s account number (and she also knows the girl needs a cash infusion, again).

By using the wrong tools and bad technique and brute force, I break my main water line in the cellar and my friend down the street is there in 10 minutes and fixes everything with a hunk of old garden hose, duct tape, and some hose clamps (which we find on the floor in a dark corner); and he won’t take a nickel for his time because my frantic text got him out of having to fold laundry.

I always have at least one beater old car and so I have my mechanic on speed dial. I leave the car in his dooryard, drop the keys in the slot, then my mechanic calls cheerfully the next day with the bad news (it’s always bad news) and I sigh and agree; then he fixes the car, and if I can’t get there until after work he leaves the key in the car and I drop a check in the slot and drive the car home. I never worry if I’m getting ripped off because he wouldn’t do that. If you want a wonderful mechanic, let me know.

One winter day, I couldn’t get my snow blower working, so I called another neighbor. The next day when I got home, the blower was fixed (no charge) and there was a note stuck on it that said, “Don’t try to get stuck wire out of the chute using salad tongs.”

The UPS guy leaves stuff in the garage when it rains. The feed store guys stack my wood pellets in the garage. The fire chief lives a half a mile away (just in case). The family behind us leaves leftover sweet corn on our front porch. And our neighbor’s kids feed our cats and huck eviscerated red squirrel carcasses out into the woods when we’re on vacation.

Two weeks ago, I lost my water and needed a pressure tank. Called a friend in the business and he said he had a tank that would work and he could drop it off on his way home; but it had been a really long day and he absolutely couldn’t help me install it. An hour later, he finished installing it and wouldn’t charge me for his time.

I was sweeping out my garage one summer day and my neighbor flew by on her daily run, detoured right into the garage, gave me an enormous hug, and then took off without saying a word and barely breaking her stride. No idea why.

So, I shout out to my small town! My neighbors, my friends. You guys are just awesome. (And I clearly couldn’t survive on my own.)

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