Sometimes choosing a topic for a blog can be dangerous. I would like to write about my experience in a small town but am afraid that I might offend the current inhabitants. What to do? If I leave the name and state out of my narrative I might get away with writing without giving the name of the town away. If the locals recognize their home, then so be it.
My son was eleven and my daughter was a precocious one year old when my husband was offered a job managing a radio station in a small western town. I was most unhappy at this turn of events because we had moved to Phoenix about six months before. I loved the warm weather and to move to a place where blizzards occurred was not my idea of Paradise. I had been there - done that!
The owner of the radio station also owned a moving company so, for the first time, a van was to pack and ship our furniture to this small town. This was to be the only time in all of our many moves I got the red carpet treatment. (Even negative situations have their good side.) Since, for the first time in my life, I didn't have to pack, we left to visit my Mom before the moving van arrived.
My husband started his job and lived in a motel while he tried to find a place for us to live. Two weeks later he found the only available house and it was 15 miles out of town. Meanwhile, our furniture had been delivered and, since we didn't have a house, our possessions were stored in the back room of the radio station. When the children and I arrived we had to move our furniture ourselves. I had forgotten to empty the garbage in my haste and it was neatly packed. Of course, the odor permeated the rest of the load and it didn't smell very sweet.
The house really wasn't too bad but the location was dreadful. There were only six houses in the area; four of them were inhabited by the families of the men who worked on the railroad. (Did I mention that between us and the highway a train went by two times a day?) The fourth house was one homesteaded by the parents of the current owners and the son lived there. (Did I mention that he was a known pyromaniac?) Across the highway was a Mercantile store that sold everything from bread to boots. The only other building was a bar. (There were lots of bars in this small town.)
A river ran behind the property and my son, Mark, loved to fish. He was delighted with this opportunity to cast his line in on a daily basis. While we were moving our furniture in Mark found his rod and reel and took off for the river. He returned shortly covered with mosquito bites. They had bitten through a fleece sweat shirt. The local joke was, that it only took two mosquitoes to carry off a full grown cow.
The wind was so fierce on an almost daily basis that my clothes blew off the line. My husband, Wayne, used to report the wind velocity along with the weather forecast. He would say "the wind blew at ? mph". The Mayor of the town called Wayne up one day to inform him that they didn't call a 45 mph wind- it was gusting at that rate. The Mayor said, "If a chain tied to a telephone pole stands straight out, that's when you call it a wind." The people there had a great sense of humor. Ha! Ha!
While waiting for us to arrive, Wayne had become friends with a bar owner named Essie. (The name has been changed to protect the innocent). She was built like a Mack truck and had a head full of red hair, ala Clairol. Her language was salty, befitting her business, and she didn't need a bouncer as her reputation of being able to throw two drunks out on the street with her bare hands was legendary.
My son was a very talented clarinetist and his repertoire was very extensive. Wayne had been bragging to Essie about his gifted son and after we arrived she took us in the back room of the bar for a private performance. After Mark played a few numbers the customers started wandering back to hear the music. Essie told them in a loud commanding voice to "get the hell out of here - this is a private party."
Essie was right out of a Western movie. Matter of fact, the whole town was a throwback. There was a triangular shaped park in the middle of the town called the 'Square'. There were nine bars surrounding this triangle. The short time we were there they had two shootings in the bars. What fun; what excitement. Kitty, where are you? It was Gunsmoke revisited.
I almost forgot, the town also had a legalized brothel.
The school had been built circa 1921 and a vote was due on a school bond. Wayne editorialized on the radio station about the need for a new school pointing out that it would only cost each homeowner a very small tax increase. The bond issue failed. Their money was supporting the bars instead.
The identifying feature of this town must be told as it explains a lot. Wayne was taken into houses where the owners showed him tunnels built between the basements. It seems the town was on Al Capone's underground railroad and that was where they hid the 'hootch' when the Feds came.
Between the wind, mosquitoes, snow, pyromaniac, and lack of support of the schools I was ready to move when Wayne was offered a job in Tucson. The owner of the radio station offered half ownership to Wayne if he would just stay. Wayne wavered, but I told him I was not raising children in the wild west. He could stay if he wanted to, but I was out of there.
And that's the story, kiddies, of why I am now living in my favorite place on the planet.