Friday and Saturday I found myself on familiar territory when I visited the flood ravaged communities of Stapp Zoe, Haw Creek and Hontubby. I grew up in Zoe (as most people call it) and the area damaged from raging waters is my old stomping grounds. While I was there, I began to remember how different life down south is compared to living in Poteau.
These communities are filled with people who know their neighbors. Not just the one right beside them, but each and every one of them. They still visit on the front porch, call each other to say hello, share the bounties of their gardens and reminisce about times gone by. They also know about one another — how many generations have been raised at a local farm house, the trials and joys of their lives and if they have moved away, where they have gone.
To some, this is an intrusion upon privacy and is unwelcome. I find that more so here in Poteau. Granted, that is due in part to the larger population and continuously revolving neighbors who don’t stay around long enough to get to know them.
Maybe we can blame our semi-anti-social behavior on technology. More people text than talk on a phone — an inch toward impersonalism. Most people make phone calls to catch up on a loved one rather than visit in person — another foot further away now! Before long, future generations face the possibility of not knowing what a visit is, rather confusing it for a cellular conversation.
For now, however, there remain a few close-knit communities where one can run away and get a taste of down-home hospitality. No judgement, no condescension, no negativity, just a warm welcome and how-do-you-do.
Although I was in the midst of tragedy, and met people who had lost everything they owned only a day before, each person I spoke to talked of their neighbors’ hardship before their own. As a community they worked together to rescue trapped friends, clean up flood debris and begin the recovery process as a group. A group who survived what the residents say is the worst flood to ever strike their community.
It was nice to take a stroll down memory lane with the people I visited and for a brief moment I felt as if I had stepped back in time. Like I had journeyed to a time when life was slower, people were friendlier and times weren’t so hard even in the face of their adversity.
Maybe there is an earthly spell cast by the winding rivers, hidden valleys, towering mountains, abundant wildlife and peaceful forests that enchants the hidden communities. It almost feels as if one has walked into the imaginary town of Spectre.
So if you are ever looking to get away, and you have no idea where you wish to go, consider visiting a small community with a country store and take a seat on the front porch with the locals. You will experience a stroll through history, a lesson in humanity and a message in morality.
Kim Ross is editor of the Poteau Daily News. Write her at P.O. Box 1237, Poteau, OK 74953 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org .