Earlier this week I read a post from MommyCoddle on Wendell Berry's books, and the world that his characters inhabit, where there is routine and work and quiet, but no real drama.
Her post reminded me of the day early this month when I had to take my Jeep in to get an inspection in one of the small towns near the farm. When my grandparents were children, you could take a train from Washington, DC to this tiny town, which used to boast restaurants and several stores. The train line is gone, and the town is now sandwiched between larger towns in the fat middle of the fastest growing county in the nation.
When I walked into the gas station's office, a middle-aged woman was writing a $50 check to pay part of her gas tab. I sat down on the worn leather sofa up front to wait for my car and settled in with this book, a perfect pace for a small town. Three or four blue hairs came in to ask the college kid (home for the summer) sitting behind the desk to pump their gas. Each one asked after Mike, the station's proprietor, and were told, "he went up to Carlisle for the day," to which they nodded and were on their way. (I had to look it up, but apparently this means a car or truck show in Pennsylvania.)
Throughout the time I was there, different guys from auto parts distributors passed through, leaving various single parts on the chairs in the front room, and getting a signature from College Kid. At one point, the gas truck man came through and shot the breeze with College Kid, and we all remarked at the enormous amount of gas pumped in the Big Town nearby. Apparently the gas truck man stops there at least once every day. I learned a couple of the fine points of demolition derby at the county fair (which had occurred the previous night), and I hope I absorbed some Important Car Facts as the men discussed what might be wrong with the firetruck in for service.
On my way out, I learned that College Kid had worked in the station in high school, and that Mike is holding his job at the station for him until he finishes his time in college. I don't mean to be condescending, but in this world, that kind of steadfastness and loyalty sure feels rare to me.
I had to go back to the station the next week for work on my truck, and things were much the same in the office. Little tiny old ladies, parts men, the College Kid, people coming in to pay for work long ago done. And I was reminded of what I like (and what I seek) in small town, rural America-- routine and steadiness. A definite beginning (sunrise) and a definite end (bedtime), but a gentle undulating rhythm of days in between. Maybe more one day and a little less another, but nothing drastic. Just living.