After our marriage my husband and I found ourselves moving into several small towns because of his job transfers. Each town was in a different state but had similar small town cultures. That means there were family names that appeared on roads, schools, businesses and in the local cemetery. There were local historians who enjoyed sharing local stories and traditions. We always seemed to be moving away from our own families, but always found folks in our new communities willing to include us and our children in their hospitality.
The one thing that is so small town and that tickled my sense of community is the way gossip moved or caromed from ear to ear. In one location the newspaper carried a story of a local policeman shot while responding to a call. My neighbor, a well networked local woman, bustled to our common fence line to tell me the ‘real’ story. The policeman was shot by an irate husband as the officer tried to sneak out of the house. It proved an entertaining story that other neighbors gathered in the yard to add and embellish.
A few days later, my young son wanted me to invite a new school friend over to play. That child’s mother came to leave her son and told me that she was happy he was invited. She said, “You’re new to town, he’ll be safe.” A strange remark until I realized the police officer shooting victim was the youngster’s father and the woman’s husband.
Gossip is always entertaining, except when it hurts. And it always hurts someone. My most enduring small town lesson.