Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SMALL TOWN LIVING... that's the way it is


So I was wasting precious writing time on Facebook the other day and came across an article that put a smile on my face because it brought back so many memories. As you all know, I write about small towns because it’s what I know. Other than a year in McKinney, Texas (outskirts of Dallas), I’ve always lived in small towns and believe me I can relate really well to  Garth Brooks’ “Friends In Low Places”.

I graduated from Tishomingo High School in 1966 with about 50 kids and we had one of the biggest classes to come through the system. So here are the 10 things that are very common in small town school systems and that changed very little from the 60’s to the present day. Thank you to whoever slapped it on Pinterest and to my friend, Stacey Drake Harness, who shared it with me. Comments are mine and I'll take credit for them but would y'all please bring my lap top and notes to jail if they get me in trouble?

 
You graduate with the exact same people you met on the first day of first grade (kindergarten was not part of the public school system in those days and Mama did not have the money or the inclination to send her daughter off to school when she was only four years old). Small towns tend to be insular places, which means–at the risk of sounding dramatic–few new people come in, and no one ever leaves. Your class roster doesn’t change much in 12 years (which is why the arrival of a “new kid” is such a momentous event), and it’s not uncommon to go to prom with the kid who barfed on you in second grade. And the whole class plus little brothers and sisters get invited to birthday parties. (I promise these are real people and it is not a scene out of Little Rascals or Leave It to Beaver; however their names are withheld to protect their vanity...mine included.)
 

2. Lots of folks in the school have the same last name. And at least three-quarters of the school are cousins. In fact, the yearbook might be more accurately titled “the family tree.”

3. The FFA wields an impressive amount of power and popularity. Whether or not your family actually lived anywhere near a farm, it was a smart move to join the Future Farmers of America. Those pig-breeding powerhouses could make or break you. My brother showed Duroc hogs at the county fair and racked up enough money for a year of college.

4. Ninth grade graduation is as lavish as many college graduations. My dress was turquoise chiffon over taffeta and had rhinestones around the neckline and on the belt buckle. I might have gotten rid of the brides' maid's dresses  that I wore and my prom dress, but you can damn well betcha my ninth grade graduation dress is still packed away in the trunk out there in the storage shed.

5. “The woods or the river” is a perfectly normal location for a party. Want to get drunk and shoot guns, eat watermelon and make out? So does everyone else! Meet us at the Washita River south of Tishomingo. The girls will steal the watermelons. You guys bring the beer.
 

6. Line dancing is part of the Physical Education curriculum. In our day it was square dancing and I’m jealous of this new generation. In small towns they don’t do yoga and archery. When it’s time for PE, they line up in the gym to learn line dancing. And trust me: when you find yourself in a rural dive bar with a juke box (when you are 21), these skills will come in handy.
 

7. Getting stuck behind a tractor is a perfectly good excuse for being tardy. Driving a tractor to school is an even better excuse (“I tried to get here in time for the test, but my tractor tops out at 26 MPH, sir. And I always bring Annie Rose to school so you might as well write two excuses, Mr. Principal.”)


8. The football coach is also your history teacher and the librarian is also the lunch lady. Teachers at small schools have to wear many hats. Some of those hats are not necessarily supposed to be worn simultaneously, but whatever. If you are flunking history, believe me the football coach will chew you out right there in front of the whole team. And if you haven't checked out a book in the last week, the lunch lady will get "a hold of you" in the lunch line.

9. If you have younger siblings, their reputations begins wherever yours left off. Here’s how it works: on the first day of class, the teacher is doing roll call and they get to your last name and pause. They look up and say, “Any kin to Carolyn Gray?”, you say yes, and then the teacher will either inform you that your sibling is a perfect human specimen you can never live up to, or write your name on the board and put two black demerit marks behind it just to get things started. One hand raised to the sky and the other on the good book, this happened. My younger brother got two demerits when he said, “She’s my sister.” The next year when asked the same question by a different teacher, he said, “Never heard of her.” 

10. Senior pranks often involve farm animals and/or manure. Both are so plentiful, it just makes good sense to utilize them? I’d tell you a story about this but then well…you know the rest. I did prick my finger and sign in blood promising that the story about that would never leave my lips but it could show up in a future book as fiction.







Did you grow up in a big city or in a small town? Would you ever be comfortable living in a small town where everyone knows everyone else? Since it's only three weeks until The Red Hot Chili Cook Off hits the shelves, I'll give away the first book in the trilogy, The Blue Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee in Kindle format to one person who comments on the blog today. Drawing tonight and please leave your email address!

23 comments:

  1. Thanks, Carolyn, for the memories of growing up in Tishomingo - love that you can relate those to the wonderful stories that you write! I am blessed to share some of those memories with you. Love the Blue Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee and those wonderful women! Blessings my friend!

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  2. I love this post Carolyn...I live in a small town now and I adore it :) Thank you for sharing

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    1. It was quite a cultural change when we had to move to a big city for a year! I love small towns, too!

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  3. "Never heard of her!" I love it :-) I grew up in a little of both. I lived in Flushing, Michigan before I moved to Houston, Texas. I can appreciate the charm of a small town, but I do like all the amenities of a big city.

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    1. It really happened just like that Shana and my brother still tells the story at family gatherings!

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  4. Some of that sounds familiar, but probably more so to my boys who grew up in an even smaller town than I did! Fun stuff as always, Carolyn!

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    1. Thanks Miz Cheryl. I bet your boys have some tales that they do not share!

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  5. I grew up in a city, but I lived in a small suburb where many of my family went to the same public school and where a lot of us still know each other today. Last May I went to my public schools 100 yr Anniversary and the people I knew and had not seen for many years, it was just like we met yesterday.. Was a lot of fun... It has that small town feeling. Love your books and can't wait until this book comes my way.

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    1. Kathleen, thank you for stopping by. WOW! 100 years old worth of students and memories. What fun!

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  6. Hi Carolyn,
    Most of my life has been spent in San Diego, but my middle school years were spent in Flippin, Arkansas. You described to a "T" those three, great years living on a small farm in northern Arkansas. I love when a post makes me smile. Thanks Carolyn! Gina

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    1. Love that name, Flippin...must do some research on it! You are so welcome to the smile and the memories!

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  7. kind of big; no

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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    1. Thank you for stopping by today! So you are a big city person!

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  8. I sort of had the best of both worlds growing up. I have lived my whole life in a city of (now) almost 500,000 people, yet it is really suburb of Phoenix, but I went to a church school for 8 years where 3 grades were in the same classroom and there were less than a 100 kids in the whole school. I eventually went to public school for part of middle school and all of high school and had a graduating class of over 700. We did live in one of the oldest parts of the city and both my parents graduated from the same high school I attended (1 of 6 in the city) and a lot of the kids Ii went to school had parents that went to school with my parents. I even had teachers who taught and still remembered my parents.
    I used to think I would love living in a small town close to a big city, but about 6 years ago my best friend and her husband moved away to just that and the horror stories I got from her were enough to make me change my mind. It probably didn't help that they were also pastors at a small town church, real set in their ways.

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    1. Sarah, I'm sorry your friend had a bad experience with small towns! Sounds like you did get the best of best worlds...living in a big city and going to a small school.

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    1. Hey, Jane. We're two of a kind then because I love small towns!

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  10. I grew up in a city in Louisiana--not a large one, but big enough to have multiple high schools with graduating classes of 200+. Now that I live in Houston, I know what BIG is. I enjoyed your post and I do love reading those small-town romances. mochfly(at)swbell(dot)net

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    1. Thank you LSU Reader. I love writing small town romances! If you'll keep reading, I'll keep writing as long as my editor will let me!

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  11. The winner of today's contest is LSU Reader. I will send a Kindle copy of The Blue Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee tonight. Look for it in the mail. Congratulations!!

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    1. Yay! Thanks so much. I look forward to having a great time reading this one.

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  12. Oh I am laughing here! Sure thing, grew up in small farming town. I will neither confirm nor deny the use of farm animals or excrement in pranks. ;) Pretty much everything you wrote is tried and true. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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