recently I have been thinking about how to share more about what I love about my rural life. I realised to do that I should really start at the beginning. The beginning of my experience here in a teeny town in central,West Virginia
Please do not confuse with the state of Virginia.
Ok, yes we were at one time one state. The civil war and topography spilt the state and I reside in the historically confederate and more rugged portion that became West Virginia. Looking at this simple map my location is off of interstate 79 near the city of Weston. The actual name of our town is Jane Lew. A Town of 547 people if you go by the 2011 census records. My family doesn’t actually count in this number as we do not live in city limits. Several thousand live within the zip code and that puts us up to say 3800 people who call Jane Lew home. The town does have several amenities that we all love and share but we have NO stop lights only a couple of stop sign intersections and a nice off ramp from the interstate.
The actual town has a nice city park and a very small downtown area with a couple of shops for car repairs and two funeral homes, a gas station. Several of our historical buildings used for the senior center, VFW,water and gas companies. On the out skirts of town we support three or four gas exploration companies, Two log home builders, a truck stop, two diesel repair garages, a dollar store, a hotel and 3 restaurants. The town does offer two doctors offices and soon a pharmacy. We are really booming here.
Off the interstate about five miles is where my husband has spent 45 or his 49 years of life. He grew up in the same house that we raise our oldest son. We farmed, worked and hunted the same property that his father bought and cared from the 1970’s. But recently we made a change and we are now remodeling and restoring a 1920 general store into our forever home. We still live about 5 miles from the interstate but in a more developed community.
Photo of the house we are remodeling after years of neglect.
Moving to a small town from a big city was a huge change for me. (My home town was around 20,000 people a true suburb of Denver Co). One of the very first things that was new to me was that everyone is friendly. People wave as you drive past their homes from the front porch or out mowing the grass. Old men wave as they drive down a country road. Everyone just waves for know real reason. One of my first conversations with my husband was ….. “who was that?”… a woman waved at us while we drove past, she was collecting mail from the families road side mail box. My husbands replied “I have know idea”. Confused I said ” Then why is she waving at us?” Tom laughed and responded….”thats just what you do here.”
That example explains my whole experience, Confused. It me took a while to learn to love it. If you see a car passing your home, some one you have never met is waving at you. It is also expected that you will wave back. If you are in an area that you don’t know, I suggest that you do wave and wave to every person you see on that porch. It is bad manors not to and you do not want anyone to think you are there for any reason other than friendly ones… Remember you are in the second leading gun ownership state in the US. Friendly is fine, strangers on the other hand take some getting used to.
In summer you may wave 5 or 6 times in 4 miles. You wave to the farmer out cutting hay, the neighbor walking her dog, the mail man who passed you in his personal SUV (No U.S. mail trucks here) as you head to town. It is a strange and wonderful habit and it makes me smile when I think about how many strangers I have now waved to in passing.
It is also impossible in a small town like mine to teach children to “NOT TALK TO STRANGERS”. I am not sure if it is a southern thing or just a small town thing, but its expected that you speak to everyone you see. From a simple nod of the head to an involved conversations with people you have never met before. As the new girl in town I used to dread going places with my husband… no one knew me and everyone wanted my story. It was hard to repeat the same information over and over. No, I am not from around here… No, I don’t have a church yet,…. No, I have never lived in a small town… No, I am not from California… no… no… acccck. Please stop asking me Questions.
Time moved on and I became just one of the many faces in “town” so it got easier. Then people assume that you know everyone they know or that you need to hear the details of the problem they are having that day. I have heard stories about cheating husbands, injured farmers and animals, children that have school problems all from total strangers. I love and embrace that West Virginians love to ask questions, butt into conversations if they think they can help, and share a sweet hello… like “good morning sunshine” while shopping at the local Dairy Mart. I never once remember anyone calling me sunshine at home! I also don’t ever remember someone over-hearing that my debit card didn’t work offer to pay for my gas. I just pumped 7 gallons at the local 7-11 and darn it, it was payday, I just knew that meant money in the bank… was I wrong!
Danny, only met me once, but offered to cover the 20 dollars to make sure me and the babby got home ok. Embarrassed and totally over whelmed at his kindness as he handed the woman behind the counter a twenty. I drove home in tears and promised to repay him the next day when I got the mess at the bank figure out. He wasn’t worried about it at all….. He said “He had been their, and new what it was like to be short on cash.” and continued “when ever was fine to pay him back.” I went the next day to his repair shop and gave him back the twenty and thanked him until the tears were in my eye again. He hugged me and said that he had lived his whole life in this small town and knew my husband most of his life and knew that he was good for it. This was a lesson for me and one that I build on still today. People here are good people and are willing to help when they can and I now understand that it is my job to pass it along to others when I can. “Pay it Forward” has been working here a long time before Ophra made it trendy.
The stereo type that there is nothing happening in a small town maybe true. Three places are open after 8pm here in Jane Lew. The 24 hour truck stop is one and the other two are a gas station and a Dairy Mart. We have no video store or Red Box , no all night laundry, or even a 24 hour Wal-Mart. But, Jane Lew does have little league baseball, churches, the largest craft fair in the northern part of the state, a best rated elementary school, a national rodeo every summer and lots and lots of friendly families. It is the families, rich, poor and in-between that make this my home. It’s the Dr’s wife out volunteering at the elementary school, it’s the Paster cooking hot dogs to raise money for vacation bible school. It is Danny the tow truck driver paying for my gas, the sweet sound of children on the play ground, and the fire fighters community Pig roast that make it home. It is the way that some one I have never met will stand at the ice cream shop and tell me stories about how their Mamaw and Papaw lived near here and had a farm, that makes the roots grow deep in this place. A small sweet southern place to call home.