Welcome To Mayberry

Carole Wyatt

© Copyright 2005 by Carole Wyatt

This trip was undertaken when my husband decided to take a small country church instead of continuing to pastor a church in Louisville, KY. There was a bit of a culture shock for the entire family.

Whenever the electric would go out in our house, the kids would practically have a melt-down. There would be no cable television, no Internet, and depending on the weather—no air conditioning or heat. It was fun to tease them with stories of my youth that highlighted my struggle against a vengeful Mother Nature. They took the stories in stride since the main hardship we faced was Derby week when thousands of tourists clogged the highways; which made our normal trips into day-long endurance trials. Well that was until my husband decided to take a new church in the country.

First of all, I like to define the word “country.” To us, it meant a sixteen mile trip to the Georgetown Drive-in that was one of the few remaining grass surfaced Drive-ins in the country. These little side trips could all be accomplished in less than an hour. Realistically, these picturesque small communities were little more than a suburb of Louisville, especially with their chain restaurants. All the same it was my ideal of country living. A person could make it to any of the major sales at the mall via the interstate while still living in the country.

My image was about to change drastically. On our way to Clay City, we drove past endless corn and soybean fields. The monotony of fields was occasionally broken up by a pasture of cows grazing. Popping up unexpectedly was a llama farm or two. The roads gradually narrowed into two lanes. I found myself uncomfortably sharing the road with fluorescent orange farm equipment that hogged the majority of the road. Unsure of road protocol, I usually headed for the nearest driveway for safety until the behemoth had passed me.

Our winding trip took us through almost every small town in southwest Indiana or perhaps I only imagined it did. Each town with their town hall square and traffic circle surrounding it tended to blur in my mind. Along with the curious attendants at the gas stations who inquired out loud as to where we might be headed. I paid for my drink and gas saying as little as possible.  Possibility of being paid an uninvited visit kept me quiet about our destination. I had trained myself and the children to trust no one. It had worked well for us in the city.

The distance between the towns became longer and there was not the reassurance of signs along the road. Static danced across the radio airwaves; I couldn’t even place myself by locating a station. The cell phone was out of its service area. Endless fields with the occasional farm house off in the distance. It was rather Oz-like, but instead of a happy scarecrow and a cowardly lion to travel with, instead I had a very disgruntled teen-age daughter and a claustrophobic dog.  We were unaware of the dog’s dislike for tight spaces until we placed him in the car. A frantic 100+ pound mutt does not make a pleasant traveling companion.

After endless complaints about how long the trip was, how in the middle of no-where everything was, and how heavy the dog was, who preferred to make physical contact to relieve his anxiety, we arrived. Well sort of, he saw the Welcome to Clay County Sign. We turned on a heavily shaded road. It was almost like entering a tunnel. No houses in sight, just a road. Off in the distance we could see the spire of a church so I knew we were close. The black top road gave away to a gravel road and eventually came to the house which was unlocked.

Exhausted, I waited for the rest of the family caravan to arrive. My first surprise of an unlocked house was  compounded by the fact that people had been in the house recently.  It was obvious by the groceries stacked on the counter and the Welcome Basket. No sooner than we arrived. People showed up to help us unpack. They all introduced themselves as being from the town. This was all overwhelming considering I only associated with one of my neighbors before we moved. I didn’t have anything against my previous neighbors, but our yards were large and I usually drove into the garage; there really was never the occasion to chit-chat. Sometimes we might wave at each other when we got the mail, but that was the extent of our interaction. Now I had people, mainly women, wanting to unwrap our household possessions. I was unsure about all of this, especially the last boxes I packed. Those were the ones I pretty much threw anything into as I scoured the house for the last time. They might pull out a glass vase, a box of corn bread, and the dog’s old leash which I should have thrown away. I murmured something about being fine.

I looked up and they were gone. That was odd. My friends and family always ask three times to help. Once was courtesy because it was expected; all though no one would dream of accepting the first offer because they knew it wasn’t heart-felt. The second offer would be because you were friends. The third meant that you really did want to help and were able to spend the time. They left after one time. I shook my head confounded. Guess they didn’t want to help.

Soon I discovered that our dryer plug didn’t fit into the wall. After a brief discussion with one of the men of the church about the location of the hardware store, the gentleman tossed his keys at my sixteen-year-old. Teeth slightly clenched, I watched as my son drove away in a very expensive pick-up. Talk about trusting, I was beginning to wonder if they knew about the driving habits of an average teenage male. Luckily, my son returned with the dryer cord and the truck. There was no obvious damage to the truck. He, on the other hand, was elated. Nothing he liked better than driving a primo truck.

Things were somewhat unpacked or as much as I was willing to do the first day. We decided to explore and see what our new location had to offer. Across from the house was the cemetery; which my daughter let me know was not a selling point. Not too far from the house was the old white clapboard church snuggled up to the new brick addition. My husband put his hand on the door surprised to find it open. This caused the children to check all the doors. They were all unlocked.

We decided to mention it to the church council that someone forgot to lock up the church.  What we thought was a horrible over sight; they thought was the biggest joke of all time. They never locked the church they explained. In fact, they weren’t even sure of where the keys were. It took them forever to find keys to our house, but they figured as city folks we’d want keys. Later on, I learned that most of them left their houses unlocked and the car keys in the ignition. It was the odd duck who locked everything up. Now when they went into the big city, then they locked up because they realized that the people there didn’t respect each other’s property.

It was a different way of looking at things. We are always continually being surprised. One time I couldn’t find my checkbook at the grocery and I was told to pay next time. Then my son drove off from the gas station without paying; as soon as he remembered he turned around and went back to pay. The owner of the station actually gave him a free coke for coming back promptly. In the city, he would have been arrested as a drive-off, no questions asked. I guess the fact that they seen him a few times and they knew where he lived offset any drastic actions.

There are big differences in a small town. Sometimes the unexpected shows up in the country, thirteen miles up the road is the wild cat sanctuary.  Lions, tigers, cougars, and one bear live in a sanctuary dedicated to wild felines without a home. Some have been retired from the circus or Vegas; others were simply pets bought from unethical dealers. In the end, they had to go someplace and the place just happened to be Centerpoint, Indiana.  There are other claims to fame for the area. Linton hosts the largest 4th of July parade in the United States. This year not only was the parade almost three hours long featuring bands from both Indiana and Illinois, but there was an overhead parade simultaneously. High in the sky following the parade route were old WWII planes, bi-plane crop dusters, Cessnas, and even gliders. Tucked into our town is the state’s oldest operating pottery. Come fall each town has a festival celebrating everything from the early settlers to the persimmon crop harvest.

It isn’t exactly Little House on the Prairie. At the present time there is no cable. Cell phone reception is weak. There isn’t a single Korean nail salon in town. The nearest dry cleaners is in the next town. There is a small coffee shop/ice cream shop about eight miles from our house. It is usually frequented by out of towners, young adults and teenagers, and newbies, like us, who don’t feel bad about paying $2 for a latte. In fact, we think that’s a great price. There really isn’t anything close to being secretive. Any bar fight, fire, car accident or domestic dispute is reported on the fire radio, and then discussed in detail the next day over breakfast.   However, if you’re looking for a new start, a slower pace, a helping hand, then a move to the country might be in order.

The author, Carole Wyatt, is married to a UCC minister, Sam. That's how she and her family, and claustrophobic dog all ended up in the country. She loves to read both fiction and non-fiction, especially enjoys a story with a humorous slant. Writing is the one thing that keeps her connected while moving from place to place. It also helps normalize what at first may seem an unusual environment.

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