Sunday, May 10, 2009

You Can't Go Home Again

The old Roundhouse: the Railroad started this town. Now, a place to park and drink beer.

My High School Workplace: now a liquor store.

Once the livlihood of the County, now for lease. $.99/ sq. foot.

Maybe I am thinking about this today, because my Mother and my infant Sister (along with countless generations) are both buried there. Maybe because it's Mother's Day. Maybe because I'm a bit disjointed at the moment.

I don't have a single living relative left there.

My friend Tobie, who I have known off and on since elementary school, who was a near witness to the loss of my virginity to a boy who called me "Cindy", who's mother offered to buy me a car once, and who I loved and fought in my senior year for some long forgotten reason, went to Bruceton last night. I mark this, because, most people do not believe the awful teenyness of Hollow Rock/Bruceton, it's poverty, it's small mindedness, it's prejudice. It's the place that I consider myself to be "from."

We have a love/hate relationship.

Tobie, like myself, has left. Tobie, unlike myself, now lives in St. Petersburg, Fl. And loverly loverly, I can get a flight to visit her out of Knoxville for $19 bucks. Soon. But that's another story.

I have, at times, missed Bruceton/Hollow Rock. There was a small group of people there who loved Heather and I; they tried to care for us when we had a Mother who could not. But the nostalgia was misplaced. I think what I really missed was the friends that I left there.

I ran off and joined the Navy when I was eighteen. Excepting a small stint to finish college, I never went back. Not really.

I am reminded that my High School workplace, the Blue Dip, is now a liquor store. It is unknown to me how this particular town legalized liquor in a dry county. I started there when I was fourteen. I made $3.10/hr.

I am told that methampetamine is so rampant that methodone is a common "treatment." The census says that the per capita income is $14,119.00.

The town is bankrupt.

I am told that the two traffic lights, in place to safely shuttle the Henry I. Seigel Co. traffic, are now just hanging... no lights flash. The factory, where the majority of the town worked, has moved to Mexico, leaving a huge water treatment facility for the citizenry to pay for. Elderly people cannot afford to flush too often. Someone needs to start a rain/graywater harvesting system there. Seriously.


I am alerted to the fact that a boy, who kissed all us girls, myself included, who had never read a book and who married his high school sweetheart, is now some sort of teacher there and also the head football coach.

Role model.

I know, that most of my friends who stayed, finished college, sometimes even got graduate degrees, now work in factories. Jobs are sparse. Eyebrows do not raise about driving fifty miles to work.

My cousin, who lives in Jackson, updates me as to who is sleeping with who. Who is strung out. Who has changed churches.

Gossip that I am not a part of. Thankfully.

Sometimes, I believe that I should go back. Help people. Court industry. Growth. And then I remember, I never really fit in. I certainly wouldn't now.

I asked Tobie last night, should we not make a documentary of Bruceton? Of teeny town life and survival? She replied, "Honestly, is it interesting enough?" Feeling like an outsider to it, I now think it is. Because most people don't know that life exists. Even I sometimes forget.


  1. Yes-The Blue Dip is almost a liquor store. The store is not yet stocked.
    We have two non-functioning red lights left over from the HIS heyday. I use one of those as a landmark to tell people how to get to my house.
    The new football coach is who you've heard. (graduated college? really?)

    Personally, I don't give three shits about who is sleeping with whom, who is strung out, or who has changed churches.
    I think maybe I have a "save em all" mentality, but I'm still here-trying to educate and expand the minds of the youth of this town. I am damned determined to crack open the small mindedness and ignorance that seems to be passed down in rural America.
    Many times I am ready to pack it in and give up....but I can't because of the kids here.
    The kids can't help it and that's why I think I've been put on this earth.
    That's why I'm still here.

  2. Wow, now I question which category you place me in. I for one (of many in my opinion) do love and miss you, and consider you one of the finest people I know. Obviously I choose to live here since I too left to experience other things (nowhere near as much as you though), and have since moved back, but I can't seem to take action and leave again. Now I'm afraid I may be part of the poverty/small mindedness/prejudice you speak of...

    And as for the boy/teacher/coach, he always has been, and still is like a brother to me regardless of how few books he he's read.

  3. Wow. I truly am astonished. The day that was designated for reflection/appreciation decended to reflection/inspiration/despair. I can't imagine a situation where a county can't afford to illuminate a traffic light. I can't imagine a county this downtrodden. My grandfather lives in rural Alabama and West Point Pepperell was a major manufactor in the area up until the early 90's and when it closed the county suffered. Luckly (similar to bruceton) there was Opelika and Auburn nearby to help with job availability. I know that every state has small, rural, poor counties but why do people stay/return? Y not have a mass exodus? Find/settle in a new place. Y has society become so complacent with accepting living standards. What significant attachment do you have with the land/area? At what point do you move to survive?

  4. Industry really? Don't you think industry had a big role in creating the mess?

    I fled my hometown of Tampa, too. As fast as I could.

    It's always been a mixed town of white, black and hispanic. When I grew up there, it was about the size of Knoxville ten years ago. It's been known to have some racial wars.

    It's a gigantic huge city (the opposite, huh?), but I wouldn't say that that makes anyone less ignorant or more educated. There are still plenty of half-witted "educated" folk who continue to live life without any consciousness of the effects of their actions. Or that even care for that matter.
    Car dependent. Industry dependent.

    It's probably not too different than your hometown. Maybe less gossip because no one really knows their neighbors.

    Probably no one changes churches. If you grew up there, you go to the same Catholic Church you always went to. With the growth of Tampa and many "transplants" moved in, a lot of "new" christian churches have sprung up...there might even be some Methodist churches down there now. I don't know. No one (whose from Tampa) talks faith or religion like folk do up here. I did go to school with a girl who is a DJ at some christian radio station. That was surprising.

    What you observe about your hometown is a mere foreshadowing of what's to come all over the US.

    Home ain't necessarily where you were born. Doesn't mean just 'cause you grew up with some people, that they know YOU best. Live where you can BE, dear.

    I love you.

  5. Oh yeah, The "Blue Dip" of my hometown is probably a fucking Starbucks.

  6. It's interesting to hear those from large towns or even close to large towns try to compare. I promise you, it's not the same...or really even close.

    I do understand however, in large towns, you watch the local places being knocked down and replaced by Starbucks. You see the fields just on the edge of town become strip malls with Publix and McD's and acres of parking. Everything that you grew up with has changed, evolved, grown into something newer, bigger and supposedly better.

    But our thing is, we grew up with pretty much nothing in the middle of nowhere and it seems that that nothing has gotten worse.

    Tracie - I live in St Pete Beach, it, but it's much more laid back than Tampa!

    We grew up in a place where the nearest movie was 30 minutes away, still is - and you had 2 choices. The nearest mall was an hour....and at that time, it didn't have any major stores that a regular mall had. We had to drive 2 hours to get to a Gap, Limited or 5-7-9....showing my age now!

    But anyway, desolation at it's best is what our home town is now.

    There was once a factory that employed the majority of the town. The factory is now in Mexico and there are 3 HUGE buildings that sit abandoned.

    The railroad started the town many years ago - as we are the half way point between Nashville and Memphis - and employed many also. The railroad obviously still comes thru, but there's no need to switch cars there anymore. It's no big deal for trains to make the 4 hour trip from mid TN to west TN now.

    Many of the factories in the neighboring towns have also closed or are steadily laying off. There really is nothing there or even close to there! People are driving an hour or even 2 to get a decent job.

    I think it's great that there are a handful like Sandi who are trying to make it better and show the kids there that there's more to life! However, I like Brandy, couldn't do it.

    I went back for 1 summer, after my freshman year in college - and probably only then b/c I was dating a guy from a neighboring town. Since then, I've probably only been back 2 or 3 times a year to see my mother. There's just no reason to "go home."

    And as my mother is still there and actually owns 1 of the handful of businesses there, the gossip takes on a whole new meaning for me. I abhored it in school and that feeling has never left....I hate to hear anyone say "Did you hear...?" or "They said that she...." HATE IT!!!

    Anyway, I've rambled enough....oh but wait, I think I skipped the football coach - who yes I did kiss also and yes I'm confused about the "head" coach position, but it speaks to the prejudice and narrow-mindedness. It's all about which clique you're in, isn't it?