The Sticks, Part 2

As I mentioned previously, folks in my life often wonder why I love it here in the middle of nowhere, New Hampshire. Recently I did a bit of reflecting about that, so I thought I would share the reasons why rural life is so appealing to me in a series of posts.

My #1 (read here if it is of interest) includes my adoration for the stunning natural beauty around me. But it isn’t just about mother nature. Truthfully, this place is rife with material for an amateur anthropologist like little ‘ol me.

More often than not, to sit quietly and watch events unfold here in my little town is more exciting to me than viewing a summer Hollywood blockbuster.

Much of my attempts at amateur anthropology have taken place at a local restaurant that Husband and I affectionately nicknamed “The Spirit”. We go as often as possible and sit side by side in a wooden booth that faces one of the two television sets in the bar.

We most certainly don’t need the TV. There is far too much going on around us.

For example: One night while dining and sipping margaritas, the beverage of choice at The Spirit, we noted a flurry of activity at the busy bar. That fateful evening we were destined to learn about the plethora of activists in our town. Let me be clear that I am doubtful these are the same activists one might see chanting in unison and holding up signs at a women’s march, as I would hazard a guess that they are usually just a tad too tipsy for that. The activists we were about to interact with were the men and women bowing their heads and speaking in hushed and conspiratorial tones at the bar, swaying while looking over their shoulders (and p.s. the dozens of empty Bud Light bottles appeared to me be the cause of the swaying).

A master plan of some kind appeared to be hatching in front of our eyes. Curious enough to risk losing innocent bystander status, Husband decided to ask our waitress what was happening.

“There’s town hall meeting tonight. Someone from Dollar General is giving a presentation on the new plans for a store here in town. People are pissed. They are going to protest.”

Husband and I looked into each other’s eyes. There was no need to utter a word. We instinctively knew what we had to do.

It was our civic duty to attend.

After inhaling our burgers and downing our second glorious tequila beverage, we dusted off the crumbs, paid the tab, and leapt up from the table with giddy excitement that could only equal that of school children on their way to seeing Sesame Street On Ice.

We ran to the church hall where the meeting was taking place. It was chock full of folks. Husband and I managed to score two seats right in the thick of things. Wide eyed with anticipation, we assessed our surroundings and the cast of characters in the room.

In front of us were two folding tables with four pale and severe looking people staring silently into the crowd. Husband and I hypothesized that it was the planning board. Just to the left of the supposed-planning board was an easel that was positioned next to and a tall, thin, sweaty man in a grey suit drinking glass after glass of water. Husband and I (again) hypothesized that the poor schmuck was from Dollar General.

He clearly knew he was in for it, as the audience was filled with people squinting angrily, shaking their heads, and muttering under their breath about the unfairness of their plight. It was like a scene straight out of Footloose. I prepared myself for Kevin Bacon to appear, whip out a bible, and tell everyone it was totally cool to dance and rejoice before the lord.

The ringleader of the planning board stood and explained to everyone that we were to behave like big kids while Mr. Poorschmuck from Dollar General discussed the design of the new store. It was only then that Husband and I noticed a character we decided to name “Jerry”.  

Jerry had positioned himself in the front corner of the room. He did not like what the planning board was saying. I knew this because he was muttering loudly and interjecting with the occasional curse word while spinning his electric wheelchair in a circle. As a result of his spinning, the shiny balloon in the shape of a Minion tied to the headrest of the wheelchair (if I am correct, it was in fact Kevin) fluttered and flitzed about in a particularly eye-catching way.

It was really, really hard to not notice Jerry.

Mr. Poorschmuck presented his plans for the Dollar General store. Jerry yelled. A lot. To be fair, the remainder of the audience was also pretty darn horrified, and in the spirit of full disclosure, the plans were horrifying to me – and to Husband – as well. The mere thought of a concrete and yellow monstrosity being erected in our beautiful little rural town made us both profoundly nauseous.

We waited in anticipation as the planning board announced there would be time for questions and comments.

People spoke passionately about their hatred for the Dollar General plans. Husband, I am proud to say,  was among those people. From the common-sense side of the audience came discussions of noise and light pollution, traffic, socioeconomic forecasts and property values. But, of course, there were the not-so-common-sense questions, which included gems like “What will happen to my mother’s rhododendrons?” and “These are the people who killed JFK!”.  Ok, Jerry might have been responsible for that one, with his back facing the audience as he intermittently rammed the table in front of the planning board while simultaneously showering the audience with historical fact and fiction, mixed with conspiracy theory, sprinkled lightly with a bit of Greek mythology.

The questions kept coming. But at the end of the meeting, the planning board told us there was no choice. It was a done deal. A hush fell over the crowd as we all quietly stood and filed out of the hall.

For months afterward townspeople displayed signs on lawns with the words “Dollar General Won’t Get My $$$$!!!!”. Everyone, including me, made it clear to our neighbors that we would NEVER set foot in that place.

And sadly, we commiserated together as the ground breaking took place. 

We couldn’t stop it from happening. But regardless, it was clear we were a town united. Husband and I were proud to be part of our little community. They took a stand. We stood with them. It was an adventure.

So, the above is all meant to be one example to provide evidence for my #2 reason for loving life in the sticks:

#2: If you keep your eyes, ears, and mind open, the free entertainment – and comradery – are limitless.








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