Miranda Lambert’s song Famous in a Small Town could have been written about my home town, Butler, Alabama. Really it could be about our county, Choctaw. “Every grandma, in-law, ex-girlfriend, maybe knows you just a little too well.” Yep, and if they don’t know? They make it up. The grapevine and rumor mills are always growing and running. Stick with me, and hear me out on this, please?
That is the part that I do not miss. That is the part that had me running out of town the first chance I got. That is the part that I try to forget. You see, I hated being there in high school. Rumors would always go around, even if you were sitting at home. That is the part that helped me construct thick walls so I could keep my distance. That is the part that helped develop my lack of trust for others. So when I look back, the memories I pull are like that of Mayberry (yes, as in the old TV show), where it is all smiles and everything works out in the end. I remember the people in my graduating class, most I had known since Kindergarten. I remember the supportive people, the back road riding nights blaring music, mud riding and getting stuck but somehow making in home by curfew with the rescue of my hero, the charm and the amazing local shops.
Y’all I kid you not when I say that I knew everyone in my graduating class. I knew their full names – first, middle and last, their birthdays, their parents and siblings, and most of their grandparents. Usually we all called each other’s grandparents by their grandparent name too. Yeah, that small of a town. Think a little, and I mean very little, bigger than Mayberry. Despite being this small, and a very small county, we still have 4 schools – 2 private and 2 public, one of each in the North and South end of the county. Classes are small, which means you hang out with the other schools as well. So we all know each other. And the summer ball teams are not divided by schools, so you get to spend time with kids you don’t see all school year. Despite being in a small class, I have kept in touch with barely a handful of them – including family members (cousins). We are all adults, in age, and I know they have changed like I have. I know they have families and jobs of their own, but I have no idea who they are anymore. Is the quiet girl, that was in band, still quiet or did she find her voice? What happened to the funny guy, he moved away and blocked most of us on Facebook? How is my once best friend managing being a working woman, wife, mom and bonus mom? Is my frienemy still competing with everyone, when she never had to compete with me but did always? I would love to know who they all are now. I’ve kept in touch with a few more closely over the years, and it’s nice to have those that knew me then, to also know me now. To see how they have grown into amazing men, husbands and even fathers.
When I tell you most of my teenage nights were spent riding around the back roads, blaring music and playing stupid games, basically every night that it was not bad weather. Sometimes we would park in a field and build a fire, others we would go mud ridin’, and a rare few were gathered at a random house “watching” a movie. Those nights were so carefree. The biggest problem was who was gonna buy beer and smokes for us and who would drive? I admit, I drove a lot of the time, but not to try and be a goody goody, I just didn’t like beer. I mean come on guys, if you don’t remember Senior year and our NYE Party? Let’s just say my world was spinning and I was sick the next two days. And then I got grounded, but all on a technicality. My dad was angry about the party and said that I misled him. Hey, I asked if I could spend the night with my friend. It is NOT my fault that I did not mention it would be at “the New House,” I feel as a parent and friend of the other couple in FULL knowledge of said “New House,” that my dad should have asked which house? Hahaha. He and I did laugh about it at the time, he was upset I drank, but I got less time in grounding because he was a lawyer and I argued my side and technicality very well. I miss these people, and think about them often.
The one thing that has not changed, that I miss and love dearly, are the local shops. The owners knowing you and letting you take home whatever you want to try on and just take back the rest in a few days, without paying. The workers knowing your name and checking on your sister who is away at college. I remember being able to call after they had closed to please have them wait so I could come grab this one thing that I absolutely had to have right then. Y’ALL, listen, well read carefully……THEY ARE STILL THERE!! Most also have a Facebook or Instagram page, and ALL of them will SHIP TO YOU!! This has made me so happy. I love being able to still keep up with those families that run and work in these amazing local shops. But more than that I love being able to support my local home town businesses. They have the BEST stuff and at WAY better prices than I could find in Birmingham or even online. Also, my mother is still local so she can grab stuff and bring it up on a trip to visit the boys! It is fantastic and dangerous. Packing for Thanksgiving Yonke trip, I basically got a new wardrobe thanks to Magnolia Traditions and The Village Shoppe, info provided below, You’re Welcome. I asked mom to stop and pick up ONE item from each…..O-N-E I tell you! Two days later I’m cutting tags off of all these things I just “had to have” when she Facetimed me from the store (by my request). These shops embody the best of small towns. They are full of loving and caring workers and owners. These are some of the most compassionate, toughest and hard-working individuals on the planet. They deserve my support now, just as they supported me growing up. Letting me play dress-up, putting items on hold so my mom or dad could come “approve,” all the school fundraisers for the yearbook, they were always there. They are still there because of these people.
The population of Choctaw County is less than 13,000. Let’s break that down for fun. Bryant Denny Stadium (BDS), the University of Alabama’s football game facility, has a capacity -can hold over- 101,000 individuals. If you divide the capacity of BDS (101,821) by the “capacity” of Choctaw County (13,000 – rounded up) you get 7.83. 7.83 is the amount of times that it would take the population of Choctaw County, Alabama to fill up a college football stadium. I provide that information and visual so you can fully grasp how small this county is, which makes these towns even smaller. (Pause: My hs math teacher and my dad would be so proud about that part, haha). Which also leads to the average income for the households in Choctaw County to have a median of $35,892 – according to the US Census Bureau facts provided on their website. This right here tells you EVERYTHING that you need to know about being from a small town. THIS right here tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about someone with roots in a small town. These people are resilient. These people are hard working and fierce in all they do. These people can adapt to their surroundings as needed, even if it is slow going or tough at first, they can change. I know that my hometown has changed, because I have changed. But I also know, when it truly comes to it, the support and fierceness is still there in those shops, and in the people – some family, some friends, some I have never met, but they are still there and will be for generations to come.
I love my “Famous in a Small Town,” flaws and all, hometown and I am proud to have finally realized that I didn’t lose my fierceness. THANK YOU ALL!!
13418 Choctaw Ave, Gilbertown, AL 36908
Phone: (251) 843-2002
The Village Shoppe
51 W Main St
Gilbertown, AL 36908
Phone: (251) 843-2323
PS – They both ship and have the BEST customer service you could imagine! LOVE THEM!!!
Choctaw County Info: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/choctawcountyalabama
Bryant Denny Stadium Info: https://rolltide.com/sports/2016/6/10/facilities-bryant-denny-html.aspx