Small Town Hospitality: Edgerton, MO

So here’s another story I found in my draft archives. Apparently I never posted it for anyone to see. I thought it was worthy enough though, to send out to my little piece of the World Wide Web, considering what happened to me yesterday.

When I graduated from high school back in the ’80s, I was more-than-happy to move from small town America to a bigger small town for college, and eventually onto urban life. Country living was too narrow and well . . . just too small for my big self.

That is until a few years ago.

During my visits back home, I began to notice (and appreciate) a common thread between the rural idiosyncrasies. It was a trait that country folks seem to be born with. One that’s always there––easily and naturally assessable. It’s the quality of extending a helping hand.

I was reminded of this trait two times recently.

The first time was when I called the front desk of the hotel where I was staying during vacation to ask about the restaurant menu. The restaurant was literally part of the lobby space and a few steps from the front desk. So when I was told, “You can come down (my room was on the second floor) and find out for yourself,” you can imagine my shock. What? I thought. Surely I misunderstood him. He really doesn’t mean that I should find out for myself when he can ask the waitress, from where he’s standing, what the soup of the day is. 

The second time happened when a friend, her 70-something mother-in-law, and I were all struggling to move a table down a flight of steps, supporting its weight on the rails, while a very capable man generously stepped aside to watch us. Really!!? we all thought, later verbalizing our thoughts in so many words as we lugged the table to my friend’s pickup truck.

My hometown might not have a lot of things, but what it does have is a bunch of people who watch over my widowed mother, farmers who plow snow-laden driveways for neighbors in the winter, people who gladly give from their gardens in the summer, women who always cook meals for those in need, and plenty who would go out of their way to find out what the soup of the day is, but who would never in a million years step out of the way to watch others struggle down a flight of steps with a table.

This quality of lending a helping hand smacked me in the face yesterday after passing a distressed smoke-filled vehicle. My conscience spoke, “Maybe we should stop, someone could be passed out inside.” Followed by my devil’s advocate, “Surely one of those other cars will stop. They’re passing by on that side.”

We reluctantly turned around. And it’s a good thing we did.

Nobody had stopped.

Shortly after we pulled up, a 16-year-old driver walked back to the vehicle after trying to get help, not realizing that his parents’ SUV was now filled with smoke and catching on fire. I called 9-1-1 while the 16-year-old went to a nearby house where a nice man came out with a fire extinguisher. A few minutes later the local firemen arrived.

I imagined my sons at 16, new drivers, in a distressed vehicle, needing assistance, and was so thankful my small-town roots got the best of me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got Bread? Hurricane Matthew would like to think not.

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Question: What do you do when you know you’re about to be punched in the gut, but you can’t get out of the way?

Answer: You go to the store and buy bread.

That’s what I did today after waiting and watching Hurricane Matthew all week slowly approach my State, leaving devastation in its rainy, windy path. I tried to do some school work this morning, to no avail. And I tried to write, but didn’t get very far with that either (although I am posting this blog).

I feel unsettled and unfocused. I lived through the 2004 hurricanes, but I lived inland, and although Central Florida was beaten up then, the coast got hammered even more. Now, I live on the East Coast, right in Matthew’s projected path.

To get myself out of my head, I decided to go to Publix and stock up on the essentials: beer, wine, ibuprofen and bread. Only there was no bread. Luckily, I arrived when the shelves were being restocked.

“Do you have any multigrain bread?” I asked.

As soon as I asked the question, I wanted to retrieve it.

Really? Does it look like I have multigrain bread? In case you haven’t noticed, we’re a little short on bread right now. Anything else on that little list of yours you’d like me to help you locate?

The polite Publix employee didn’t actually say that, although I’m sure he was thinking something along the same lines. Publix employees are trained to make their customers believe they are valued, even when they ask stupid things like, “Do you have multigrain bread,” when it’s obvious they don’t. Instead, he looked at the one solitary box of bread he was unpacking, and then looked back at me, and said, “No, this is all I have.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said, grabbing a loaf from the top and quickly exiting the aisle while thinking, God, I hope they’re not sold out of beer.

As I headed home, I spotted a landscaping crew finishing up mowing my neighbor’s yard. Without hesitation, I stopped, rolled down my window and asked, “Do you have time to do my yard too?” I don’t recall even thinking about thinking this thought. I just followed through like some crazy person on a mission to get her yard manicured for Hurricane Matthew. Why? I have no idea. It just made me feel better. Literally in 20 minutes, those yard guys had my lawn all spic and span. It would have taken me oh, a mere four hours spread out over one evening and into the next morning. That is no lie. But I’ll leave that story for another blog when I have more time to process that.

So, what does one do when they’re about to get punched, but can’t get out of the way? Well, I get a yard manicure, and buy beer, wine, ibuprofen, and . . . bread, specifically Nature’s Own Butterbread.

BTW, in case you’re wondering, I will indeed head inland in the morning if forecasts get worse. But for now, I am bracing myself, like so many other’s, for a swift punch in the gut.

I Found Myself in a Pair of Overalls

I grew up in overalls. Stopped wearing them when I got married. Overalls were frowned upon. A little too country I guess.

A couple months ago, I got the urge to wear them again and googled “overalls.” I found multiple sites from stores that actually sold them. Stores like American Eagle, Gap, Nordstrom and Forever 21. Overalls were in style. I couldn’t help but smile.

I was a little older than the models, at least thirty years older. I didn’t care. If overalls were now fashionable in places like the city, I could make them fashionable with older women. I figured at fifty I had earned the right to be grandmothered into the overall club.

Not one to order clothes online, I waited until I went shopping next to look for my beloved overalls. My opportunity came unexpectedly when I took my teenage son to PacSun.

Upon our entrance, a salesgirl asked if she could help us. She was wearing overalls.

“I love your overalls!” I said. “Where did you get them?”

“Over there,” she said, pointing to the wall.

And you can guess what happened next. I bought those overalls and have comfortably and happily worn them since. The first day, my friends, Janice and Susan, snapped pictures of me. Yesterday, Debbi Gay and Jimmy, friends since kindergarten, accompanied me to a cornfield for a good ol’ country photo shoot. Needless to say, I had a blast.

Take a look.

I do believe I found myself, at age fifty, in a pair of overalls.

 

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Life in the Edge: “God Bless the USA”

I’m slow on my reporting this week because I have to search for wifi. Typically, I’m happy to disconnect. But when you just started blogging, it’s nice to have access to the world beyond Edgerton. Anyway, if you recall, the Round Table is the sacred table at Harmer’s Café where the locals sit and BS. I’ve been trying to finagle a seat there all week, to no avail. I finally decided, after a transformer blew out the electricity at Harmer’s yesterday, forcing them to close, that maybe I wasn’t supposed to mess with the Round Table mojo. Besides, I was told I can get the same BS next time I visit, as the locals have been swapping the same stories for years. At any rate, the following is my latest attempt at snagging a Round Table report:

June 19, 2015

Not any BS to report from the Round Table this morning. Only two men were there today. I stopped the last one leaving and asked where all his friends were. He didn’t quite know.

“Ma’am do I know you? You look familiar.”

No, we didn’t know each other. He graduated from North Platte in 1964. I was born in 1964. The man wore a white cowboy hat and black cowboy boots. Raised alfalfa, but couldn’t bail the hay because of the rain. Got drafted and shipped to Vietnam in the ‘60s.

“You don’t keep your grades up, Uncle Sam will get you,” he said. “I was too busy chasing women . . . We could get cigarettes and beer over there easier than we could ammunition.”

His squad got fired upon. He got shot in the shoulder, kept the shell as a reminder. As if he needed one.

“Lost Phillips in that battle,” he said.

After serving and finally coming home two months beyond his 12-month tour, a little old lady with a cane, spat on him. He reached behind his waistband, took a knife out of its sheath, scraped the saliva off his uniform, and wiped it on her.

“Ma’am, I think this belongs to you,” he said.

“Wow, I bet that hurt more than being shot,” I said.

He didn’t respond.

Didn’t have to.

His eyes said it all.

No . . . no BS at the Round Table this morning.

* * *

I don’t like war, any kind of war, regardless of the reason behind it. But I am thankful for our unbelievable taken-for-granted freedoms in this country. I know these freedoms well. I have been privileged enough to travel outside of the United States, well beyond comfort. We are a land of plenty. Plenty of food. Plenty of opportunities. Plenty of freedoms that grant us the ability to BS at round tables.

When our servicemen and women sign on to serve this country, they don’t get to choose whether or not they go to war or whether or not they agree with the reasons behind those wars. They go. And fight. For everybody. Even those who spit on them.

I’ve always thought every American should be required to live one month in another country before being granted citizenship as an adult. I don’t think anyone would be spitting then.

With Independence Day around the corner, take a few minutes to listen to one of my favorite songs, God Bless the USA, by Lee Greenwood, and thank our servicemen and women for serving our land of plenty.

Life in the Edge: “Big Son-of-a-Gun”

In elementary school I was a head higher than the girls in my class and most of the boys. I hated being too tall. I didn’t feel that way around my best friend’s dad though.

“How you doin’ you big son-of-gun?” he’d ask.

I’d straighten up and answer, “Just fine, you big son-of-a-gun.”

I felt big, not as in “too tall” big, but as in “you’re special” big.

Amazing isn’t it? How powerful words are––building up or tearing down? I’ve carried those words of endearment with me for over 40 years.

On this last trip back home, my good friend, Debbi Gay, and I visited her aging father. What an honor. I felt just as “big” in his presence then, as I did 40 years ago.

Thank you––you big son-of-a-gun.

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Life in the Edge: “The Boil Order”

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Edgerton was under a boil order when I arrived. A couple water pipes broke after the heavy rains, but they couldn’t be fixed until the water subsided. Until then, everyone was ordered to boil their bacteria. I chose not to drink the water, boiled or not.

The boil order was a topic of discussion when my mom and I ate breakfast at Harmer’s Café two days later. Billy and Maxine owned Harmer’s when I was growing up in Edgerton. Billy farmed. Maxine ran the Café serving up fried chicken and homemade pies. Today, their daughter Karen owns the restaurant.

But, back to the boil order.

Apparently, word got out at church that the boil order had been lifted before the ‘head honcho’ officially announced that it had been lifted. According to my source, this is how the information was more than likely leaked (no pun intended).

An undisclosed person who works for the water company told one of his friends that the order had been lifted. That friend told his wife who then told someone at church. The someone at church then leaked it (again, no pun intended) to whoever makes Sunday announcements. Whoever makes Sunday announcements then informed the congregation.

My source, who had dutifully attended church the day of the boil lift announcement, ate lunch at Harmer’s afterwards and said to Maxine, “So good they lifted the boil order.”

The boil lift was new news to Maxine. Nobody had informed Harmer’s Café yet. They were still boiling water on their busiest day of the week. Maxine told Karen. One of the waitresses called the city clerk. The city clerk was surprised anyone knew of the boil lift because it had not yet been officially announced. And because it had not yet been officially announced, Harmer’s had to keep boiling their water. Orders from the head honcho.

“Who’s the head honcho?” I asked while scribbling notes in my green notebook trying to keep the story straight.

“The government,” my mom responded, at which time I could no longer contain myself. I laughed hysterically. Edgerton is so alive with stories. Rich, wonderful, down-to-earth stories. My writer’s mind always works overtime when I come back to visit.

“Ladies, you’re getting a little rowdy over there,” the man at the next table said.

“You might need to move to the round table.”

I’m glad he mentioned the round table. I had been watching it out of my peripheral. It was closest to the kitchen. And it was indeed round. Men gathered there daily, reporting the town news. The round table was nearly as sacred as the table for the Last Supper.

“I would like to move to the round table,” I said. “How do we get to sit there?”

“You have to be full of BS,” my (boil order) source answered, at which time I laughed even louder. I was pretty sure the three of us already qualified.

Stay tuned my blogger friends. My next report will be straight from the round table itself.

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Life in the Edge: a glimpse into my hometown, Edgerton, MO

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According to the Welcome Brochure published by the Chamber of Commerce,           “the first plat of Edgerton was filed for record on May 29, 1871.”

Swain & Mason erected the first store building. Hood Wilkerson operated the first hotel located on Frank Street. And in 1883, Colonel J.C. Nesbitt published Edgerton’s first paper.

November 18, 1891, the “Great Fire” of Edgerton destroyed three general stores, two drug stores, one furniture store, the printing office and the hotel.

In 1902, Edgerton businesses included: one bank, one newspaper, four dry goods stores, six grocery stores, and one restaurant. Three drug stores, three general stores, two hardware stores and furniture stores, a harness shop, two millinery establishments, and two grain dealers. Two blacksmith shops, one hotel, one lumberyard, one undertaker, one tin shop, two barbershops, one photographer, and one commission house.

On May 29, 1902, the Edgerton Journal Newspaper reported Edgerton as “Platte County’s Banner Town.”