Back in the early 1970’s, I lived west of here in a small town called Lake City. What I loved about Lake City was the size of the town and the friendliness of the people. Having lived in the city most of my life, moving to the country was a refreshing change of pace. Something I learned rather quickly was that Lake City had many of the same problems as J’ville, just on a smaller scale.
In no time at all, I started to make friends. Seems word got out rather quickly that there was a new girl in town. There probably wasn’t much to talk about around that time which would explain the chatter about someone new. Everyone I met was very friendly and only too happy to help out their new neighbor.
One day I walked to a restaurant about a block away from where I worked. Not knowing a soul, and being rather timid about eating alone, I found a booth at the back of the restaurant and sat there all alone trying to not make eye contract with anyone. All of a sudden a rather tall, well-dressed blond woman walked right up to my booth, extended her hand to introduce herself, and then asked if she could join me. I was a bit surprised but quickly said, “Yes, please do.”
Betty was her name. She was the owner of an apparel shop, and she wanted to welcome me to town. (Guess word got out faster than I thought.) She had been raised in Lake City, and she knew quite a few people in town. From that day forward, we were fast friends.
After that, I started to meet other people and soon found myself invited for Sunday dinners. The meals were always delicious and usually consisted of veggies fresh from the garden, fried chicken or baked ham, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, sweet tea, pie, and ice cream. You name it, they served it, and if anything was left over they sent me home with a “to go” plate. I never went hungry while living in Lake City.
One of the things I did while living there was volunteer work at the VA Hospital. My assignment was to sit with a man named Elroy. Elroy had suffered a minor stroke and he needed help with a few things. He was a country boy from Moultrie, Georgia, and he lived about as far back in the woods as one could live. I would sit with Elroy for a couple of hours on Saturdays, and we would talk, play cards, or I would wheel him outside if the weather was nice and we would share snacks (usually something he had asked me to pick up at the grocery store.). He seemed to appreciate my company.
One night I received a phone call from Elroy, and it went something like this:
“Cath, is that you?”
“Yes, it is. Who is this?”
“Elroy? How did you get my phone number? More importantly, what is wrong?”
“Well, I looked it up in the phone book, and I need your help.”
“Oh? What is it you need?”
“Well, it’s like this. Back in Moultrie, I have this little business, and I need help with something. I can pay you $800 if you will help me out.”
“Dear God, $800 to do what? Is it legal?”
“Well, Cath, I run moonshine, and I need someone to make a run. Can you do it?”
“Elroy, I don’t believe I can run moonshine for you. I’m not ready to spend the next few years in prison.”
“No, Cath, you won’t get caught. The cops all know I run moonshine, so they won’t bother you.”
“Well, Elroy, as much as I would like to help you out, and I sure could use the money, I’m gonna have to pass on this one.”
“Okay, Cath. Will you still come to see me next Saturday?”
“Sure, Elroy. See you then.”
Little did I know that on Saturday, Elroy was going to be discharged from the hospital. When I got to his room, I found not one but two wives ready to take him home. Two wives! They both looked at me, I looked at them, I suspected they thought I might be Elroy’s girlfriend, so I quickly explained that I was a volunteer at the hospital.
They were sweet little dumplings, and Elroy seemed happy to be leaving the hospital. We all hugged good-bye, and I never did hear from Elroy after that day. However, I suspected he went back to running moonshine … or, he found someone to run it for him.
You just never know what you are going to find in Small Town, USA.
© Catherine Evermore. All rights reserved.