Tom Kerr writing on small town America…
The average American has approximately 600 acquaintances at any one time. More than that, it gets tough to manage (no matter what anyone’s Facebook friends page may say).
Buck was one of my 600, before he passed away…back when I plied my trade as a stone mason.
One morning Buck rode with me to the nearest big city, where I needed to do a bid estimate for a job. The homeowner told me she’d be at work, but to go ahead and tour the property.
As Buck and I were walking around back, a cop showed up. A nosy neighbor had reported two suspicious-looking characters.
The policeman took me aside and asked what we were doing, so I explained.
“Who’s the other guy?” he asked.
“That’s my good friend Buck.”
“What’s his last name?”
I scratched my head, thinking hard. I looked across the yard at Buck, then back at the cop.
“Officer, I have no idea. But I can vouch for him.”
“How long have you known him, Mr. Kerr?”
“Gosh, I guess it’s going on three years. Time flies when you’re having fun.”
The policeman gave me a look that said he didn’t just fall off the turnip truck…and didn’t believe a word I was saying.
“You have to understand, Officer,” I explained. “I live out in the country where you might get to know people because you see them every day at the diner or watering hole. Before you know it, you’re friends…and you never got around to last names.”
He was unconvinced until I rattled off Buck’s birthday. I knew it by heart because I had thrown him one heck of a party.
The cop called to verify my story with the homeowner, then checked Buck’s birthday on his driver’s license. We were free to go.
Buck and I had a good laugh.
Later I felt vindicated when I heard that statisticians calculate that most of us can only remember the names of 150 people without some kind of prompt.
And apparently, each of us knows only one or two dozen people well enough to really trust them.
That may not seem like a lot. But ask yourself how many people you’d let watch your house while you’re away…or borrow your car…or trust to feed your dog.
You could probably scribble all those names on a beer coaster.
I know a dozen people out here in the boonies who don’t bother to lock their doors. Half of them leave the key in the ignition of their truck overnight. I’m pretty sure the other half stick it in the sun visor.
One of them has the key to my house, and knows where I hide the 30-year-old cognac. But I know which store-bought bottle of spring water in his pantry doesn’t have water in it. He keeps it refilled with moonshine.
I wasn’t introduced to moonshine – or the colorful characters who make it – until I moved far away from mega-cities like Houston. I also discovered a more laidback way of life that I thought was extinct. But there it was, alive and well and welcoming.
If you know 600 people in a city of a millions, good for you. But you’re still surrounded by mobs of strangers all day.
If you know 600 folks and your hometown has a population of 6,000, on the other hand, every tenth person you run into is a friendly face.
Think on that while you’re riding the subway to work this week…or your spouse is walking home at night.
If a change of scenery sounds refreshing, small town America will leave the porch light on for you…
P.S. Discover how you can enjoy a more laidback, authentic, independent way of life in Truth & Plenty. Sign up below to have it delivered – free of charge – to your email inbox.
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