Growing Up in Small-Town America

One time in junior high, I was riding in the car with my Peepaw (Hudge). We went to the grocery store and on the way back home, he saw someone he knew. So he threw his car in park, got out, walked up to the car in front of him and knocked on the driver’s window. And then they hugged and spent a minute catching up. There were three or four cars behind us by the time he got back behind the wheel and no one honked their horn. In fact, one lady stuck her head out the window and said: “Stay out of trouble, Hudge.”

I decided long ago that greatness is built on the back of small-town America, and it’s a unique place to live and grow up. I graduated high-school with 108 people, most of whom I’d known most of my life. My principal was also my Sunday School teacher. I walked down the same halls that my mother before me had, and she was on a first name basis with every teacher and administrator. The FFA hosted events like “drive your tractor to school today”, and a Friday night football game draws the whole town in.

In Greensburg, Kentucky people still show up for visitations and funerals–in suits and ties, no less. They write ‘thank-you’ cards. They still bake casseroles or desserts when someone is sick or new to town. There’s a church on every corner, and they still host potlucks and play the organ. The men still gather outside of the hardware store on the square and talk about who knows what (maybe the good old days?). Our rural community smells like freshly mowed hay and cow manure on summer days. And it is beautiful. We still have festivals and fireworks and lemonade stands. People still sit on their front porch on summer nights and wave to the cars passing by, and as a little girl, I’d walk to The Corner Drug Store and get two scoops of chocolate ice-cream in a cone. And Ski still comes in a glass bottle.

In Greensburg, Kentucky, you’re identity tends to merge and you’re known better by the blood in your veins than by your given name. “Oh you know her, that’s so and so’s daughter.” “He’s a Smith.” “Yeah, I went to school with her grandaddy.” I’ve been known as Hudge and Larkie’s granddaughter or Fran’s daughter my entire life. And my God, does that make me proud.

People have a lot to say about the negative aspects of small-town life. The gossip and bigotry and judgment can be plentiful. But so are the love, the prayers and that some little something that doesn’t seem to exist anymore: dependability.

Every single graduation, wedding, birth or death in my life has been celebrated and mourned by the people in that town that love me. They have been my champions and my cheerleaders. And if now, at this moment, I picked up the phone and called any one of them to say “Help”, then help would surely come.

For me, one thing will never change: when I cross the county line, my soul sighs. ‘You are home’, it says.

So feel free to lament about the lack of things to do, or about the old-fashioned view points, or about how backward some people can be. It is easy to feel trapped. But at the end of the day, remember this: ‘Small towns are where the juices come from, and that’s where we made it, not made it in terms of success, but made who we are.’ Your small town gave you good soil and strong roots and now you can plant anything in it. They will be your shelter in life’s storms. When I count my blessings, Greensburg, Kentucky–and the people in it–are near the very top.
ky

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

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13 thoughts on “Growing Up in Small-Town America

  1. Thanks for posting this again Fran. I missed it last year. I didn’t live in a small town when I was growing up, but the community I lived in was like a small town. We were almost in the country and everybody knew everybody. Now I live in a small town in Oklahoma. I love it. Thank you Hunter for taking the time to write your blog. Almost every time you hit right where I need it.

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  2. I have lived here my whole life except for couple years in louisville. I have never traveled anywhere else that would make wont to move away. It’s where even if you don’t know somebody you can still strike up a conversation and people don’t look at you like you nuts. Good job, hunter.

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  3. I grew up quite literally across the street from Larkie and Hudge. I graduated with your Aunt Paula, a year behind your mother. I moved from KY after high school, but have many long friendships and return to the ‘berg every chance I get. I always drop by the old house and visit Larkie and Hudge, and visited Paula each time while she was with us. Your note pierces deep to my heart, and the significance that community had in shaping my life. Thank you for the most thoughtful words. Perhaps our paths may cross some day. Greetings to your family.

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  4. Although I was from a little town next door to Greensburg called Campbellsville. My family roots remain in Greensburg. The Martin’s is where my root started. Charlie Martin and all his 22 kids worked the field in Greensburg KY.

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  5. I was born and raised in Greensburg, Ky and will always call it home. My first job was at Corner Drug Store and I loved talking with all the people that came in there every single day! They became like family. Great story!

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  6. As a little girl live in Greensburg and few other small towns, down in that area. To this day I miss my roots and my moved away when I was nine. Tho my family roots and family still live in these areas. The country roots never leave you, proud to be from these roots. Miss you very Much. Bibbie…mother’s maiden name was Gentry.

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  7. Greensburg, Green County, is my birthplace. I was born there in 1964. My grandparents were Wrights, Morans, Montgomerys, and Akins. My father is a Wright, and my mother is a Montgomery. Vester Montgomery Tucker was my great-aunt, and the twin sister of my grandfather. I miss spending time in the courthouse with her and Rhea in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office. Also, the square isn’t the same anymore. I also, miss Betty’s Country Kitchen, the drugstores, one had a grill, counter, and booths, Ennis’s, Henry Durham and Sons Hardware Store, Greensburg Deposit Bank, and so many other businesses, dentists, doctors, family, and friends of the older generation are gone.

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  8. I also love this small town, not for the town, but for the people who live there. Larkie & Hudge have always been apart of my life. They are the kindness, most caring people I know. I have always loved them. Even though I’ve been away from Greensburg for the last 30+ years, they will always be special to me! As are a lot of the Greensburg people.

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  9. Very well written. Hudge and Larkie were and, I hope still are, really good friends. Love coming “HOME” to visit!

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  10. We visited Greensburg many times when I was growing up. I sometimes wish I lived in a small town where everyone knows everyone and not afraid to say hello!

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  11. Beautifully written. It’s the song my heart sings! I married and moved away from Greensburg but every single time I pass the Green County sign, the stress of life immediately leaves my body because “IM HOME!” Thank you so much for writing and sharing. I love it!

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