Small towns


It’s all they talked about this morning, I expect, when the old men gathered at the folding tables for coffee and pancakes before dawn this morning, nodding to neighbors or groups of younger people in for hunting season.

How someone flipped the old chief’s bench, snapped it in half. How things are just going from bad to worse, and now they’re disrespecting the dead. How this isn’t the kind of town we want, and this isn’t the town we know, and who could do that kind of thing?

“That’s not the town I grew up in,” he tells me when I call at 8 a.m. this morning.

It took just two days to raise quadruple the money needed for the bench — all going to catch the perpetrator, because “we hold people responsible here.”

He tells me who started the fundraising campaign, and I can’t catch the name, so I ask him to repeat it. He spells the last name for me, gives the first as “Junior.” I have to ask again to get an actual first name, but we all call him Junior, he adds, doubtful that I should use the proper name.

He says this isn’t the town he grew up in as though something has changed, now that the bench has been toppled; as if people haven’t got drunk before, haven’t looked for a little mischief in those days between too much turkey and the start of buck season.

I doubt it’s really changed. I expect generations before have caused their own problems of varying degrees of intensity. And while I question why we ran the story on our front page, it makes this place feel that much safer.

They’re outraged, there at the fire hall today. But I’ve filed their little community away.

Because where a flipped bench is the talk-of-the-town, you know it has to be a pretty quiet place to live.

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