County Lines by Bob
I never missed my hometown until I stayed away too long, until
I returned and discovered a city with a population of more than
100,000 had replaced a town with a population of less than 8,000.
A small Southern community with back roads and swimming holes and
friendly people who said "How you doin'?", and cared,
erased by what is often mistaken as progress.
My hometown swallowed by fast-food joints and giant department
stores, where no one smiled and said "Y'all come back."
Fishing on quiet Sunday afternoons replaced by frantic trips to
purchase this or that, to buy something to temporarily relieve the
emptiness inside. Farms and green pastures replaced by concrete
A small-town Southern way of life wiped away by the influx of
Northern tourists who came to visit and decided to stay. A paradise,
or as close as you can get in this world, changed into a hellhole
by those with dollar signs where hearts should be.
The Northern influence had even affected the local newspaper. A
well-written publication had turned into a mishmash of stories filled
with grammatical errors, which would have been funny if it hadn't
been so sad.
The town where I was born and raised was only a memory. But memories
are sometimes all we have to help us survive until we reach a better
place. When I came to this part of Tennessee, I knew it was where
When I first saw Livingston, it was like returning home, to where
things were like they used to be. I like Livingston. I like the
stores with wooden floors.
I like the courthouse being in the middle of the square, exactly
where it belongs. I like the cannon and the granite war memorials
and the eternal flame. I like the library. I like being able to
go where I want when I want without the threat of being mugged.
But most of all, I like the people. The way they wave from their
cars and trucks as they pass.
The way they say "Hi" when they meet you walking down
The way they say "How you doin'?" and really care.
The way they say "Stay with us" when you're getting ready
to leave after a visit.
Call me prejudiced if you want. But I like Southern hospitality.
I think it's important. It's like fresh air and pure water. It improves
the quality of life.
Sometimes when I start missing my hometown, the one which no longer
exists, I'll sit on a bench in downtown Living-ston, soaking up
the good vibes of the friendly people as they stroll past.
I was sitting there yesterday, running some lyrics to a Hank Jr.
song through my head, "If you want to find an angel, you got
to find her where she fell. If you want to get to heaven, you got
to raise a little, raise a little," when I saw a man and woman
exit a car with Northern plates.
Both were dressed in jogging suits. Although I don't want to be
critical, human bodies weren't made to wear jogging suits. But if
you desire that sagging-yuppie look, wearing a jogging outfit will
accomplish the task.
The couple approached me. Must be lost, I thought.
The woman said, "Where's the movie theater?" No "Please."
No "Howdy do." No "Good afternoon." No indication
I thought about commenting on her rude behavior. But I decided
to chalk it off to being from the north. "There's no theater
in Livingston," I said.
"Yes there is," the woman replied. "It's in the
"Must be an old phone book," I said. "There's a
theater in Cookeville, about 30 minutes from here. I'll give you
directions if you want."
The other half of the couple added his two-cents worth. "I
know there's a theater in this town. How long have you lived here?Ó
Knowing the couple had never dealt with someone like me and would
try to avoid ever doing so again, I said, "What do you mean
when you say here?"
The man said, "What do you mean what do I mean?"
I replied, "Do you mean here on this bench or here in this
town or here on this planet? Here is a tricky word. When using it,
you need to specify the precise context to clearly indicate the
location of the subject in question."
The woman said, "What did he say?"
The man was about to respond, when two teenagers passed in a pickup.
As the truck slowed to turn, the first ten notes of Dixie blasted
out of dual, roof-mounted horns.
I smiled. The woman shook her head and scrunched her face up like
a possum. The man said, "Bunch of redneck hicks."
"I'm proud to be a redneck," I replied. "Been one
most all my life. Used to pretend I wasn't, until I discovered it
was o ne of the few things that made me real. Being real is better
than being plastic, don't you think?"
To get my point across, I removed the upper four front teeth that
replaced the ones I lost during a barroom brawl and smiled.
Without even saying goodbye, the couple hotfooted it to their car,
slammed the doors, and sped away.
I don't know if they found what they were looking for. But I doubt
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570