It is a scene out of “Make Way for Ducklings”: cars and pickup trucks are stopped. In the big city, it would be due to traffic or never-ending construction, possibly even a deer. But in small town Bandera, they are stopped for a train of chickens crossing from one yard to another. (I’ll let the reader decide why the chickens cross the road.)
As I head off to college in Arkansas (more on that in my next column), I grow both excited and a little reflective. Packing is always a hassle, but must be done. Vacuum-seal bags relieve some of the stress of wondering whether all my various T-shirts will fit in the car. The biggest concern is, of course, will every pair of shoes I own fit in the car? I know my priorities.
I see now why Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home!” Though that line is over-used, it nonetheless holds true. Where else can fellow drivers on the road wave that signature small wave? Hand on the steering wheel, one or two fingers lifted up in a small salute. Then, a faint smile forms on the corners of someone’s mouth. When I’m driving in San Antonio, that friendly, small-town atmosphere is no longer present.
There is no wave, no running in to people I know in the big H-E-B. Yes, they have restaurants that stay open into the night, and lots of produce to buy, but it comes at a price of longer lines, people staring at me for not wearing a mask, and a general feel of hurry that I don’t feel in Bandera.
The San Antonio-Express News is too large to let an unknown college student write an occasional column. In Bandera, my column was not only accepted, but encouraged and welcomed. I have gained valuable experience that I would not have gained in a bigger city.
When I go to college, I wake up in a small dorm room, potentially to the sound of other girls leaving for class or my roommate getting dressed. At home, it’s much quieter. I wake up and the deer are slowly creeping towards my mother’s delicious flowers, and the squirrels are dashing towards the chicken coop to raid the henhouse of eggs. I look around, and there isn’t a house in sight.
Our neighbors are difficult to find; we all have an acreage, but still feel neighborly.
Instead of meeting our neighbors in a Meet-Your-Neighbor Night, or a Neighborhood Watch party, I met my neighbors when their dog wandered onto our property, or the cow came to eat, yes, the grass watered by the septic tank. My dad always says you are what you eat. Instead of having a neighbor with Best Yard, we have an ax pit. My dad hasn’t mowed the back five acres all summer, and we aren’t penalized by the neighborhood committee.
When my mom had the kitchen remodeled, she didn’t know what to do with all the leftover cabinets she couldn’t use. A neighbor called and asked if he could take them to give to his daughter. He didn’t have a vehicle large enough to carry all of them, but he knew someone who knew someone who did. In a short time, we were able to bless another family with our old cabinets, and all because of neighborly connections.
The well-paved roads gleam and neatly manicured lawns on my college campus are beautiful, and I love seeing all the flowers and thinking, “there are no deer in Searcy, Arkansas.” But when I come home, there is something special about driving down semi-paved roads, hearing the crunch of my tires on sticks and pebbles and bouncing a bit, and seeing rows and rows of trees. There are so many trees, I used to think they looked like giant bushels of broccoli when I was young.
We have “bushels of broccoli” in our yard, and there’s always lots of shade so I can sit under a tree and watch our chickens free-range. Walking all the way up our hill to throw away trash is sometimes difficult, but provides good exercise when I would otherwise just be sitting down at home. I love to watch the dogs play outside and run laps around and around my dad’s shed. When I watch them, I think, this could only happen at home, in a small town, and I love it.
Casey Lay is a Bandera native currently studying at Harding University in Searcy, AR, as an English major.