“Every last one route, one rural heart’s got a story to tell. Every grandma, in-law, ex-girlfriend maybe knows it just a little too well. Whether you’re late for church or you’re stuck in jail, hey, word’s gonna get around. Everybody dies famous in a small town.” A few simple lyrics to one of my favorite songs by artist Miranda Lambert and they totally encompass the meaning of growing up in a small town. I tell my husband all the time that she must have known about our little town when she wrote that song because it could not have been said better.
Over the years I have learned there are many pros and cons to living in a place where everyone knows everybody. When my brother and I were teenagers my mom always told us that we had better behave when we were away from the house because she would know if we weren’t. The first time I ever found out she indeed had eyes watching me everywhere was the first time I got to attend a high school football game alone. Mom strictly warned me that I was not to leave the football stadium area for any reason. Well, I did pretty well keeping to mom’s wishes until halftime rolled around. A few of my friends thought it would be fun to walk over to the baseball field and sit on the bleachers. I knew that I shouldn’t disobey my mom, but I figured we were only going to be gone for a few minutes and surely she would never find out. Well, the moment I walked out of the bleachers I felt bad because I genuinely did not like going against my mom’s wishes for any reason, but was still convinced that a few minutes couldn’t hurt. We were probably gone a maximum of ten minutes which was basically long enough to walk over there, figure out there was nothing interesting, and then walk back. Before the second half even started we were back in our original seats as if we had never left.
I went home that night still feeling a little guilty for what I had done, but still confident that mom wouldn’t know. As soon as I walked in the door my illusion of safety disappeared. She had that look, the “mom” look, and I knew I was busted. She already knew when I had left, who I had left with, how long I was gone and when I got back in my seat. This was before cell phones were glued to every ear and you actually had to communicate with real people. The woman had eyes EVERYWHERE! This incident taught me a very valuable lesson in not disobeying my mom and that she must have ties all over the county, like some kind of mom mafia.
For the most part I have always loved living in my small town and believe that some of the biggest dreamers come from them. It is comforting to know that if your car breaks down and you get stranded somewhere that more than likely you know whose house you are close to. On the other hand nosey gossipers may spread the word that you were conveniently out of gas on a back road with a boy you weren’t supposed to be seeing. Gossip spreads like wildfire on the lips of mouthy folks. It doesn’t matter if there is any truth to the tale or not some people thrive on the misery of others. In a small town one slip of the tongue can practically ruin a life.
Working at the newspaper I have definitely seen and heard my fair share of tall tales and gossip. I have witnessed the sweetest testaments of love from the brokenhearted and gotten burned by the hateful words of someone intent on making someone pay for a wrong they felt they were dealt. One of the most touching things I deal with are the obituaries. They are ultimately the most sobering aspect of this job, but they are also a constant reminder of one of the joys of living in a town where everyone knows everyone. In large towns an obituary is just another name in the daily paper, it can get lost in the shuffle. But in a small town when someone goes to be with the Lord more than likely you can read that obituary or hear that name and recall something about that person. Small town folks may get mad at one another, but when one of our own passes away the community mourns the loss and uplifts that family.
We may have our problems and Lord knows this town is far from perfect, but it is ours. Whether you hold an office, pastor a church, work at a restaurant, pick up the garbage, or dish the news we are all part of this community with not one better than the other. As the song goes, “Everybody dies famous in a small town.”
May you have a great week, God bless, and join someone in church on Sunday morning. There is no better way to start the week than with the Lord!