Meanwhile, back in the backwater

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown

“I think people sometimes forget about us in the little towns and rural communities.” — Melody Hamilton.

The quote slowed me down and got me stuck, like a mud truck grinding to a stop in a mud pit. The haunting comment would not let go of me.

Folks like me who are in the little towns and rural communities of America can feel like that sometimes. We can feel like the big business and the big politics and the big sports and the big entertainment and the fast life passes us by without even a wave. Like we don’t matter much.

I came across Melody Hamilton’s quote in a newspaper story. “The Los Angeles Times” had a writer traveling around California and reporting on the drought that is so severe there. The writer, Diana Marcum, happened to ask Hamilton, a housekeeper at Hideway Lodge and Motel in Greenville, California, about the drought.

Hamilton seemed surprised to meet up with a big-city writer and then be asked about something important, something other than how about some more clean towels.

Small-town life has its rewards, but voice and influence normally is not one of them. Usually that is reserved for the big-city high rollers who get to attend the big game, who get to see the stars in concert from the front rows, who get to the latest fashions first, who get to meet the big politicians at dinners or in the politicians’ offices or homes.

I paid particular attention to a tussle this year in Raleigh pitting city vs. country. Lawmakers representing rural areas were out to change the way state sales taxes are distributed to favor the country even more and at the expense of the city commercial centers. The idea got quashed as the high rollers, starting with the governor who’s from the big city, flexed their muscles.

City vs. country is a question that haunts our young in particular. Do they stay or do they go. Do they pursue life and career in the city or do they choose to begin their adult life here and maybe forego some things.

I’ve known classmates and acquaintances who decided one way and I know some who decided the other. One time I complimented a guy during a visit here in the hometown who had hit it big in the city and had just gotten a prestigious, high-pressure job promotion.

“Congratulations, or condolences, whichever applies,” I teased. He let a slight grin break out. He knew the price that must be paid for such a thing.

I like a story that Hamilton told “The L.A. Times.” Her soldier-daughter served two tours in Iraq and needed the peace and quiet of her hometown to recuperate from post traumatic stress disorder.

You don’t think of California as having small towns and rural communities. But Greenville, population 1,129 in northeast California, is one.

“The only place she could fine calm was here,” Hamilton told the newspaper.

“These places, they’re small, they’re hard to get to, “ Hamilton added. “But they’re places you can walk in the woods and sit on a rock and feel quiet. And that’s an important part of California.”

It’s important here, too.

President Obama will never come here to the hometown to give a speech. Taylor Swift will never perform here in concert. The Panthers will never play here.

But still we have a good thing going here in the hometown. It’s still a good place to live, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s important. Sorry, L.A.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown Harris Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune

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