Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Full Service, small town style....

   My husband and I were out and about in our small town this past week and drove by one of the local gas stations.  Now, in our neck of the woods, Casey's are the usual convenience "brand".  They swept the market on small town convenience and have made we rural peoples lives easier.  However, that was not the station that we drove past. My husband pointed it out and said "There's something you don't see very often."  It's called "Full Service".

    This station is somewhat hidden by the row of broken down vehicles awaiting their turn with the mechanic. Behind this row is the station with 2 gas pumps in front of it.  If you were to pull up in front of the station, an amazing thing happens. Out of the station comes a human being.  He walks up to your window and asks how he can help you.  He then proceeds to open your gas tank, pick up the nozzle and begin filling your tank with the type of fuel you requested and the exact  amount you want.  These guys are pros.  Never do they go a penny over what you wanted. ( I try that all the time and always  manage to go over....) While your tank is filling, they do some other amazing things.  They will go over to the island and pick up the squeegee and wash your window. They will then ask you to pull the lever for the hood and they will check your oil level.  If it is low, they will ask if you want some added. They will pull a pressure gauge out of their pocket and check the level of air in your tires and fill them if needed.  This whole process is what is known as Full Service.
     If you were to try and stick a credit card in the pump, it would probably get lost in a crack, there is no slot for the plastic.  There is no screen telling you to press the cash button or hit enter.  You don't prepay.  The station takes cash, please, and checks only if they know you.  There is a sign over the door "In God we trust, All others pay cash". Of course, the attendant can make change if you need it, though you usually tell them to fill it with whatever denomination you have in your wallet.

     There is a typical "gas station attendant" uniform as well.  When he comes swaggering out of the station, he is dressed in a navy blue button down shirt and navy blue pants (never jeans).  He will have a pinkish rag with grease stains on it hanging out of the back of his pocket.  He has a tire pressure gauge in his chest pocket and a knife or wrench in the other.  Behind his ear is a ball point pen with the  name of the station printed on it.  He is always prepared. Old ladies swoon when they see him. He is their hero. He cares for their needs and is friendly.  They know they can trust him with the care of their old car.
     Those of you who live in more suburban and populated areas don't have this privilege. If you were to pull up to a gas station and a guy came out and tapped on your window, you most likely would not open it. You would maybe even drive off.  My brother worked at one of these full service stations in our small town. It was on a main highway from Chicago. Big city people were so amazed at what he did, that he would get $100 tips all the time.
     I can remember the gas station in our small town when I was a girl.  I can distinctly hear my dad saying "Filler-up" when he rolled down his window.  My dad's name is Phillip, and one of my brothers used to think that you had to say your name in order to get gas!  I can also distinctly recall the sound of the air bell that would ring as you drove over the hose to warn the attendant that someone was there. We would try to jump on the hose to make it ding.
     With the economy crisis lately, there has been a rise in gas theft at stations.  Gas companies might do well to hire an attendant to fill people up and prevent them from driving off with stolen fuel.  You would be less likely to drive off if the attendant actually saw your face. Rolling down that window and telling him to fill you up makes you committed for the long haul. No driving off without pay!
    This service comes from a long tradition of gas station attendants down through the ages. Men who weren't afraid to get their hands greasy and knew an engine inside out.  Picture Goober on Andy Griffith.  If he heard a strange sound in your engine, he could diagnose it on the spot.  And, he could take care of it for you. His job was to serve.  It is a service that has almost become extinct,  but you'll STILL get that in a small town!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Oh, deer....


      Today is the day that is officially known in these parts as "Deer Widow Day".  Yes, rifle season opened in our state today.  I woke this morning to the sounds of gunfire.  I looked out on Main street to see it rather empty, except for those who had already made their catch. The local hotel (with it's total 8 rooms) is booked all weekend, as is the local bed and breakfast, each with pickup trucks loaded with four wheelers cramming their parking lots.    As we drove to the bank later on, there were many pickups driven by blaze orange cap wearing drivers, and their friends.  I didn't see any deer in the back of the pickups.  'Must not have been a good day.
     The local high school holds a craft fair for all the deer widows.  It's a fun time for the ladies to get together and showcase all the crocheted potholders, plastic canvas items and pom-pom decorated crafts that they have been working on all year.  I have been involved in these craft shows before, and the funny thing is, that you usually don't sell much. Everyone that is there looks at your items and quietly whispers, "I could make that."  So, unless you have a craft that is highly unusual, or a talent that no one else could duplicate, you are pretty much out of luck.
     This is also a big day for churches to hold their annual "Deer Hunter's Breakfast".  They are advertised on the radio for about a week in advance.  They start at 4:00 a.m. so the hunters have a chance to eat and get in the stand before first light. They are always touted as "free", so I guess the churches just hold them out of the goodness of their hearts, and so the wives don't have to get up and make breakfast for their hunter.
     It is somewhat of a crazy habit to those of us who don't understand the lure of hunting.  These men, who usually won't sit anywhere but their heated Lazy boy, suddenly jump up out of bed at 3:30 a.m. and start dressing to go sit on a hard, wooden deer stand,  up in a tree, for several hours.  It is usually very cold out.  You sit there in the dark, squinting through the fog, to try and see an animal that God created to be hidden.  You load up on snacks and coffee to keep you awake and warm (my father-in-law says he only goes hunting for the snacks).  So, the minute that you have hot coffee balanced on one knee, a twinkie in your hand and your gun out of reach is when you finally see your deer.  I'm sure many a buck has been scared away by hot coffee or flying donuts.
     I have been hunting once in my lifetime.  Before my husband and I were married, I went with him on his birthday.  We dressed up in the coveralls and boots and coats and the ugly blaze orange cap that was several sizes too big for me.  Then we sat there and talked ( very taboo if you want to bag a deer!) for countless hours until the sun came up and a doe wandered over by us.  Oh, I forgot to mention that it was a record temperature that day-- 80.  To say the coveralls, boots and coats were a tad too much is an understatement.  We didn't drink the hot chocolate we brought.  I craved Gatorade and Popsicles.
     And, then there is the garb..... blaze orange and camouflage.  These are a real big deal.  The blaze orange, of course, is to assure that other hunters don't mistake you for a deer.  Believe me when I say that this has happened before (not sure how you can see a man and think he is a deer).   One of these days, the deer are going to get smart and start wearing blaze orange caps on hunting morning  (hmm, I wonder how hard it would be to attach one to a deer??).   You can buy any clothing article you could possibly wear in either of these colors/patterns.  Supposedly, the camouflage is meant to camouflage you from the deer seeing you (of course), so then, why can you buy trucks, lazyboys, and even prom dresses made of this pattern???   Truth be told, these are not just the colors of the hunter in his natural habitat, but these colors denote the rural citizen, the signal of the true redneck, the emblem of the free..... but you'll get that in a small town.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Small Town Business

     Business is a tad different in a small town.  Of course, business is geared to suit the needs of a certain area.  I begin with this picture because I love the quirky, old fashioned feel of it.  It is an age old "sign", most likely has been there for years and they just paint around it once in awhile.  By the way, it is a car dealership.  If you were to walk inside it probably still has the old counter top.  Maybe a few modern conveniences have been added, but it still has that "Mayberry" feel to it.
     Even in everyday business operations, things tend to be different in a rural area.  Most stores will keep a running account for you that you pay off each month.  You really do hear people say "Just put it on my tab".  Because you know everyone, you also know who you can trust-- or whom you can't!  Many stores have a large hand written list, place prominently somewhere in the store giving names of people who have written bad checks. Several stores even have names of people posted out front who are not even allowed in!!  In contract type work, your word is as good as gold.  Even a simple handshake is as binding as a signed contract.

Local gas station and liquor store.
         Often small businesses have to diversify.  Two or more separate operations can be run under the same name.  In the big city you can get by with specializing in one certain area, for instance:  counter tops, tires or carpet.  I've even seen stores that only sell candles, ball caps or flags.  One wonders how they make it, but they have a much larger population to deal with.  In a rural area, you sometimes have to combine techniques and abilities in order to make your business work.  My husband installs seamless gutters, yet also has a mowing and snow removal business.  Besides the gutters, he will also do construction, tile, plumbing, electrical and tree removal just to keep the business going!  Talk about diversify!!
     I have seen some humorous business linked together.  While driving through a small town in Illinois, I saw a sign that stated: "Miller's Car Repair and Cafe". Hmmm.  'Hope the mechanic doesn't do the cooking too!
     Not long ago I saw this advertisement locally:
    By the looks of the play toys in the fenced in yard, she must run a daycare as well.
     When times are rough, we rural people still do things the old fashioned way.  Services can be exchanged for services.  Sometimes business is given in the form of a gift when a family is struggling.  We all know each other, and we all know each other's needs.  So, it's just part of everyday life to help someone out if you have the ability to do so.  Sometimes a genuine "Thank you" and a handshake are the best pay you can ever get.  But, you'll get that in a small town....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Old Settler's Parade 3

     In a rural area, the categories of entries in the parade are usually different than the ones that are entered in, for instance, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Here are a few you won't see there.
Of course, there are always the tractors.  It is a long line of proud owners driving their spiffed up, shiny machines.  Most folks don't understand the love of a tractor. It's not just a hobby, it's a way of life for these farmers; and to own something that is this old, and still works, and may have belonged to your grandpa is a  great reason to show it off.
     Now, those of you who have lived in a rural area understand the importance of color when it comes to a tractor.  There is a major competition between those that are red and those that are green.  In fact, farmers often come to blows over the qualities of each color and why one is better than the other! I didn't mention the blue or the yellow........

And, here they come in full force, the few, the proud, the GREEN! 
 (I won't mention which brand broke down right in the middle of the parade....)

There are always the unusual tractors that folks have to show off too!

Our next category is what I like to call the "Redneck Entries".  And, appropriately we begin with the "Redneck Limo".

For those of you who haven't seen a normal pickup in awhile, this one has been modified to make the bed extra long.  Yeah, you could fit a lot of passengers in there!

Next up, we have those entries that look like we rural people have a little too much time on our hands.
My husband informs me that this is several different old car and truck parts put onto a pickup truck chassis.

Notice the warning sign near the misplaced tailpipe.  It says "Caution: Noise Hazard Area."  Yes, hearing protection is definitely recommended.
     And now, the rivalry between and green and red comes back into play with an owner who is so sold on "green" that he painted a vintage car in those colors.  Oh dear.......John Deere.
     Well, that's the end of the parade.  There were many, many other splendid entries, but I only had room to show these.  The parade always ends with the horse and mule riders and teams.  They always are at the end of the parade because.......well, you know why.
     We also have a super fantastic high school band that makes everybody stand up and cheer because they are the best around and have travelled to such exotic places and won trophies and represented our county so excellently!  We all love them and cry when we hear them because they are the best.....but you'll get that in a small town.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Old Settler's Parade 2

More pics from the small town parade.  No parade is complete without the stream of old, refurbished vehicles.  What a great way to show them off!  I took this picture for my husband. He would love to have this truck!

It amazes me that something over 100 years old can still be driven.  Wow!
Next come the beautiful "finned" cars of the 50's and 60's.

  You don't get to see these very often except on parade day and on an occasional Sunday afternoon drive.
They sure don't make them like they used to! 
Boy, that's one big boat!!

And then, there are always the boys that have to show off their toys:
I wish I could insert sound here.  You would hear the overpowering revving of his engine.  Of course, the driver doesn't remember that he does the same thing every Friday night.....but you'll get that in a small town.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Old Settler's Parade

     Our small town celebrates "Old Settler's Day" in late September.  It usually means a baby contest, little prince and princess contests, baking contests, car show, tractor show, dog show, and many of the other ways that we rural people like to play and show off in.  We also have our once a year parade. There is usually some kind of theme to help those who do the floats come up with an idea to work with.  I'll just give you the pictorial tour to give you some idea as to what goes on in a parade in a small town.
The parade always begins with the local veterans carrying the flags.  It is always an honor to be chosen to carry and to represent our town in this way. 
Next come the fire trucks. The firemen like to get their gear on and show off the bells and whistles, literally.
And, even though they may be old........
or once had some other purpose....
     you can be proud that you are a volunteer and help to keep the community safe!

Next come the princesses and queens. There are always several categories of these.

Including the "Watermelon Princess"!!?!?  Not sure what contest that was.

Who is this young man representing?

Why, the Moose Lodge, of course!

This year's theme was "My favorite Holiday", so there were many entries that were about Christmas and Thanksgiving.  We all like to represent our business or organization in a unique way, and a parade is an opportunity to do that!    But, you'll get that in a small town....
*More pictures to come!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You know you live in a small town when.....

1. Instead of watching "Good Morning America", you head down to the local cafe for the morning news.

2. You actually know someone named "Bubba".

3. The "New Year's Baby" isn't born until about mid March.

4. You go to a yard sale and see some of the things you sold at your yard sale the year before.

5. You read the local sheriff's report to see who got "caught" this week, and could name 3 others that should have been.

6. Your kids cry when the neighbor's dog passes away.

7.  You rejoice when the other neighbor's dog passes away because you will be able to sleep now.

8. Your system of home security is affectionately known as "Rex" and "Ruger".

9. You have had your groceries carried to and loaded into your car.

10.  You have ever worn camouflage to a wedding, prom or funeral.

....but you'll get that in a small town

Friday, September 9, 2011

Small town fair food

The picture says it all.....

   No fried snickers bars or twinkies here.  When farmers and ranchers get together they want farmers and ranchers food!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Death in a small town....

     Yes, people die in small towns, just like they do in the big city.  But, we country folk often handle things in a different way.  Usually when you hear of a death in your town, the individual usually falls into one of  a few different categories.  Either they are: someone you know, someone you are related to, or someone who is related to someone you know.  In essence, when one dies in a small community, the whole town grieves.
      At the onset of death, or at least when it is realized, the coroner must be called.  Due to the lack of people willing to run for public office, the coroner is usually someone who also holds another position.  In our small town, he was also the prosecuting attorney.  So, in order to have the coroner pronounce someone dead, they had to die when he wasn't in court, or wait to be pronounced until later.  I'm sure the local sheriff often had the dilemma of whether or not to call the coroner/prosecuting attorney during hours that he would be in court.  I have wondered if there was a "sub" for the coroner when he was out of town.
     The funeral home is also called when someone dies.  In our town there are 2 such funeral homes, and the competition between the two is rather fierce.  People are very loyal to one or the other and are adamant to make their wishes known before they die to be sure that they are taken to the right one.  Funeral homes are rather simple places, usually a larger home in the town that has been fixed up to make it nice for funerals.  Often the family of the funeral director lives in the upstairs of the home.  If the funeral director is also an entrepreneur, he may rent the "chapel" in the  funeral home for weddings and other special occasions.
     The actual service is usually held at the funeral home, attended by all who would care to offer condolences to the grieving family.  In cowboy country, that meant getting to dress up for the occasion, putting on your "going to town" duds ( clean jeans, western shirt, sometimes a bolo tie, and nice boots with the pant legs tucked in).  You could walk into the church and see the rows of cowboy hats placed neatly on the shelf above the coat rack-- one of the few times a cowboy takes his hat off.  The parking lot would be full of pickup trucks, the dogs in the back absent because they had to stay at home for the occasion. 
     Music at a funeral has changed over the years.  Years ago, the local organist would be hired and a friend of the family that could carry a tune would be asked to sing the favorite hymns of the one who had passed on.  Lately, the addition of a sound system in the funeral home allows people to pick their favorite songs to be played over the intercom.  In cowboy country that means only one thing: songs that bespeak the hardships of life: Country music.  I have been in many a funeral and wondered about the choice of songs.  Many of the songs fittingly speak of heaven or hurting after one is gone.  I was very confused at one funeral where suddenly over the loudspeaker came "Heartbreak Hotel" and several people started sobbing.
     The local parson presides over the service, offering words of hope and comfort for the grieving family.  After the funeral, the individuals church family will put on a meal for the community.  It is usually "funeral ham" or fried chicken accompanied by homemade salads and desserts.  There are typically those families that show up to every funeral--just for the food.  However, no one confronts them.  Death is a quiet affair and the family is always thanked for attending.
     It is always the duty of those closest to the one that passed away to put a thank you note in the local paper.  There are unique ways of thanking people, but they always express appreciation to those in the community for their support and love.  You just have to hope that the editor of the paper catches the typo before printing.  I read this thank you once in our local paper.
"Perhaps you were there, or gave to the memorials or sent flowers or a card.
Maybe you gave words of encouragement, or a hog, or a prayer.  You were there for us"

I'm pretty sure the family meant to say "hug". Oh well.

      The local radio station also reads all the local obituaries on the air, three times a day.  ALL relatives are mentioned by name on the air which often makes for a very long announcement when step relatives and ex's are included.  Lately, pets names have been mentioned along with "special" friends, whatever that means.  The service times and locations are announced so all can be sure to attend.  Last week the announcer made a general invitation to all by announcing that "snacks will be provided"..........but you'll get that in a small town.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Breaking news.....

Yes, we had breaking news in the booming metropolis this morning.  It caused quite a stir amongst the populace. This poor old man must have been distracted and drove into our front ditch.  It was quite a big deal.  All high school traffic had to be directed around it.  I'm surprised that the ditches along the way didn't get filled with more drivers as the teens texted the news after they passed the site.
     Notice the little heads at the bottom of the picture. This was a major event at our house.  Just having an ambulance drive by causes the kids to run to the door, so having a policeman and tow truck in the front yard was cause for great excitement.  We took a break from school just for this special edition of Social Studies. 
     It was also a big deal in the community.  I'm sure it is the topic of discussion over coffee at the local cafe and among the beauties at the salon. They are probably all talking about who it was and which officer was there and who drove the tow truck. I know it will be a front page article in the paper this week.  I saw the photographer taking many pictures for her "scoop".  I'm anxious to see what the headline will be.  I'm sure the story will die out before the week is over, but for now, we have news!  But, you'll get that in a small town.....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Siren

     Every small town has it's siren.  You know, that big horn on top of a pole that calls the firemen to the station when there is an emergency.  At least that's what we thought the purpose of the siren was....
     In our small town, the siren rings three times everyday.  I'm not sure how that tradition got started. Maybe when they got a new one they liked using it, and , because there weren't many emergencies, they decided to ring it every day.  Or maybe the history goes back further to the dinner bell, calling men from the fields for meal times. 
     Whatever the history, we hear that wonderful siren three times a day.  The first siren sounds at 7 a.m., a wake-up call to those who may be late for work.  I dreaded that siren when my kids were babies and I was trying to sleep in.  They would always wake up with that bell.  The second one sounds at noon.  Just a pleasant reminder that it is lunch time.  The kids know that we should be eating a meal when they hear that. The last siren goes off at 6 p.m., another supposed meal time.  It makes me wonder if they chose to ring the siren to remind people that they need to eat?  I guess, as my husband does, men get busy and forget about chow time.  They needed reminded to stop, take a break and get some nourishment.
     Whenever we have out of town guests, they always think there is some kind of emergency or something when they hear it.  We always have to explain the 7,12,6 schedule to them.  I have often wondered how I would know if there was a tornado during one of those hours.  I have gone to the basement on occasion thinking it was an emergency.
     I am very glad that I do not live near the siren.  I live about 5 blocks away from it, but I have noticed that there are a few houses right underneath of that pole.  Instead of "across the tracks", the poorer section of town is "under the siren".
     I have also learned not to depend on the siren.  You gradually get used to the sound and still need to set an alarm to get up in the morning.  If you don't set the alarm, you won't hear the siren.  Trust me, I've done it before and been late for an important appointment.  Not a real good excuse to your boss: "I didn't hear the siren."  Also, in the spring and fall when we change the clocks, the guy in charge of changing the clock on the siren is usually about two weeks late..........but you'll get that in a small town.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Wave

    I had never seen "the wave" until I moved to small town Nebraska.  I distinctly remember the first few miles before we reached the town (population 250) in which we were to be living.  It seemed odd to my family and I that each in vehicle we met on the road, the driver would wave at us.  We wondered about the first few people to do it: "Who was that, Dad? Do they know us?"  Being from the east, where friendliness in strangers is hard to come by, we were rather intrigued.  The closer we got to town, the more drivers waved.
     "The wave" is a little hard to describe if you have never seen it before.  It is never a full hand sticking up above the dashboard waving back and forth like a little child would do. Nor would it ever be a Miss America style "proper" wave or a little granny wave. It is more like a nod with your hand. Sometimes it will just be an index finger lifted as you pass, or a slight raising of all four fingers. Being from the east, we were used to seeing fingers from drivers, only in a different light.  To get the proper wave position, you need to have your hand draped over the top of the steering wheel at just the right position so that it can be seen by every other driver on the road. Occasionally, the driver might have his hand across the back of the seat beside him and he will slightly raise it in acknowledgement.  Some of the more daring may just lift their chin, instead of using their hand at all.  On a hot day, the hand may be hanging out the window or resting on top of the roof of the vehicle.
     We came to learn that "the wave" was merely a friendly gesture.  Perhaps a welcome to someone you didn't know or a "hello" to another neighbor or resident of your town.  The rule was that you always wave, to everyone on the road.  Whether friend or enemy, each person deserved an acknowledging.  We found out in time that "the wave" is contagious.  Soon after we arrived there, our dad caught the bug and started waving to everyone as well.
     As young teens, "the wave" was a rite of passage that came with getting your driver's license.  You never waved from the passenger seat.  Only the driver was allowed to wave.  We would sit in the driver's seat, drape our arm over the top of the steering wheel and dream of the day when the wave could be ours.  They taught you the proper hand position in driver's ed.  No more of this "hands at 10 and 2" stuff, one hand was placed at "12" and your other hand held the bottom of the wheel until you were more confident in driving with one hand.
     I guess that comes with the home pride of a small town area.  If you live in the same county, there is this pride, this sense of self-worth, knowing that you are one of the chosen few to live in that area and you pledge it with raised hand.  No blank stare as you drive down the road. Driving becomes part of the social network in a small town.  You see the other person and know that they, too, share the home pride of that area.
     I moved away from the small town for a few years.  "The wave" was a habit that was hard to overcome.  There were some big city people that were waved at, until the strange stares stopped me.  I was fortunate enough to marry a small town guy, and so now I get to see the wave all the time and return it with a smile.  But, you'll get that in a small town...

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Homecoming Sheriff

     I collect typos from our local newspaper.  It is a bad habit of mine to critique all of the articles in the paper.  I have found many hilarious mistakes ( that I should have sent to Jay Leno for his "Small Town News").  I think my favorite of all times was back in 2005.  The local high school had just had their homecoming game and the big news of the week was who won the title of homecoming queen. If you lived in a small town, you would understand the importance of the homecoming game. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, goes to the game, or listens to it on the radio.  Every storefront and window is covered with signs saying "Go Indians", or "We are pulling for you guys".  Every player's number is painted to a red wooden football and attached to various electric poles throughout the town.  If you are privileged to have a player in your home, you stick a large sign in your front yard with his number on it to show your support. As the opposing team drives into town, they see signs addressed to them, touting the strength of the local team and how badly they will lose.  The day of the game, there is not a person who is not wearing the team color, and often has hair that color, too!!  So, the homecoming queen is always a big deal, too. It is quite a competition between the local beauties, and the local gossips are chattering about who will win the title.

So, the on the front page of the paper, the next week, in large print, they announced :
"Sheriff Crowned Homecoming Queen"
     I laughed for days about that one!  Of course, the young lady's name was Tiffany Sheriff.  Obviously, the local sheriff wasn't wearing the crown that year, but they surely could have found another way to title that, right? Just one of the many things that make a small town lovable!  The paper people wanted to shout the headline!  And so they did.  But, you'll get that in a small town...........

Oh beautiful for little towns......

I have lived in small town America all of my life.  This blog is a collection of funny happenings and incidents that help to define small town living--for all you big city folks who don't even know your neighbor, or even have a front porch!  I love the friendliness and the silly no-care attitude that we rural people possess! Enjoy!