Honey, I shrunk the town

A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that a third of Georgia’s small towns — it considers “small” any community under 10,000 — lost population in the past year.

I don’t really have a reason to question the report, although I don’t know exactly how the Bureau goes about its estimating business in such a matter.

Hey, Larry, does it seem to you that Roopville just ain’t the bustling place it once was?”

Indeed, Sally. I estimate they’ve lost a little population in the last year or so. They’re probably down to an estimated 223 folks seeing as how I ain’t seen the Tompkins family around here lately. In my humble estimation, I’d say they must’ve moved on.”

I do question, though, why folks would want to live in big cities instead of small towns. I understand why folks have to live in big cities for such things as good paying jobs in corporate offices, factories and vehicle theft rings, but I don’t understand why they would otherwise choose to live in the city.

Granted, I grew up in Oglethorpe, Georgia — a suburb of Possum Holler — and the town had about 1,000 folks living there back then, though it has since experienced a population surge up past 1,300. As a kid there, I dreamed of getting out of that little town and into a city about the size of, say, Tokyo. But that’s what small-town kids do. Kids are kinda stupid — with the exception of that Jackson Oswalt kid in Memphis who built a nuclear fusion reactor at age 12.

(To kids in Memphis worried they might be in a science class with Mr. Oswalt and he’ll kill the grading curve, don’t worry. I’m sure Big Oil will pay him off to forget about this fusion mess — the same way Big Pharma pays companies to keep inexpensive, life-saving options off the market so that their executives get rich as people die. You might call it capitalism. Or manslaughter. Depends on the country.)

Small-town kids, though, don’t know what they’re going to miss. So, all you young’uns from tiny towns, lemme preach on it for a minute. You big-city folks can go now — you probably need to quit reading and get ahead of traffic anyway.

You’re going to miss playing in the street. We roller-skated, played football and shot bottle rockets at each other in the middle of Keene Avenue. Granted, those activities alone are not advisable, and they’re even less so if you’re playing in the middle of Columbus’ Veterans Parkway.

You’re going to miss restaurants with zero ambiance (except that TV permanently tuned to Fox News in the corner) but amazing, inexpensive food. I love to eat at these places when we are on the road. I don’t bother with Yelp when trying to find a small town’s best restaurant. I just look for the one with the most pickup trucks in the parking lot and the most old folks in there eating. A restaurant with that combo is can’t miss.

You’re going to miss friendly neighbors who don’t immediately shut their garage door when they get home and will let you borrow a cup of flour. You’re going to miss cops who make sure you get a good whipping instead of a criminal record. You’re going to miss the rolling echoes of a train on the other side of town. You’re going to miss driving at age 14. You’re going to miss no worker at the grocery store needing to wear a name tag. You’re going to miss the entire community coming together in one spot for Friday night football. And you’re going to miss people who wave at you — with the whole hand instead of just one finger.

Of course, I don’t mean to insinuate that no one waves nicely in the big city. But if you see one, they’re probably lost and trying to find their way back to a small town. Help them out and point them toward someplace like Roopville. I hear they have a little room.

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