News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

September 7, 2008

‘Well, I was born in a small town…’

We’ve seen a diner close, our grocery store go up for sal

“I cannot forget where it is that I come from,

I cannot forget the people who love me

Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town

And people let me be just what I want to be.”

— John Mellencamp’s

“Small Town”

It was about a month ago that I just happened to be standing in my driveway working on a balky lawnmower when a long, white delivery truck pulled into my place. The driver had brought a pair of catalogue-order pants to me all the way from Maine, so the least I could do was put the work I had in my hands down so I could sign his clipboard and send him onto his next doorstep.

Since he was “our” deliveryman, after all, I asked him how his day was going.

For some reason or another, he began to talk about Rosedale, the little town that’s situated a mile or so south of my home. He said it seemed, to him anyway, as though the town was empty; he’d seen no one out and about as he’d cruised through.

It was a blistering hot afternoon despite the shade of my maples, so I knew he’d seen Main Street as deserted as a scene from “High Noon.” If folks in town weren’t at work, they’d be inside, off the streets, in their own air conditioning. Even the town’s dogs had probably tucked themselves under a bush somewhere in an attempt to stay cool.

He said his own hometown was going through similar changes — I think he mentioned a burg over in Clay County — and it was sad for him to see small towns like his dry up and face such tough times.

He was on the clock, of course, and I wasn’t, so I tried not to bend his ear too long, but he said that when he was a boy, his town buzzed with activity, that there were several grocery stores and a movie house and a barber shop. People were always on the streets. Many of them came into town from outlying farms and whistlestops. Friday nights and Saturday mornings were particularly busy there.

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    March 12, 2010