My post about filling my Dad's car with gas at Uncle Del's Esso station pulled my back to my childhood and where I grew up.
Anawalt, WV, was one square block--or oblong block as it were. Front Street and Back Street (what we called them) were much longer than the two sides that completed the block. Side Street was the shorter of the two with only Flake Martin's Gulf station, a bridge over the Tug Fork River and an empty lot. The fourth street was usually referred to an Jenkinjones Road, since that where it eventually led.
There were some 400 citizens of Anawalt--about 55/45 white to black. And half a mile in most any direction--there were only 3 ways to go--brought you to mostly nothing, though if you kept going you'd come to some other places.
Anawalt was a flat space--maybe the size of two football fields--with the Tug Fork running through it and steep mountains on all sides. The sun rose late and sat early and we heard airplanes every week or two, but seldom saw one.
The first time I drove to the Mid-west, I got really anxious about all the open space. Growing up in Southern West Virginia was an experience of mountains and a small sky.
I've talked to lots of folks who grew up in small towns and some of the experiences are shared. But they tend to get a blank look on their faces when I bring in the mountains. You had to grow up in the mountains to understand what it was like living in hollows and narrow valleys all the time.
Bern grew up 12 miles or so from me. Where she lived was like this:
A mountain--a house--a barely two lane road--a house--a stream and a mountain. Maybe a hundred feet wide for miles and miles around there.
Closed in is one way to think about it. Held in the hollow of a hand is another.
The first is annoying. The second comforting.
I think I felt comfort most of the time down there in Appalachia.
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