Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Small Towns

Small Towns

Took a break and I am visiting my Mother who lives in Hendersonville, NC and my brother who lives in Landrum, SC. Hendersonville, though it is really a small town; tries to be a city but Landrum is proudly nothing but a small town.

It’s a delightful change from Houston. Of course, I had to check out all the thrift stores for books. Folks are friendly. At one shop the cashier flipped though my choices and commented on them in such a way that I knew she’d read a couple of them too. Such a nice change from the surly checkers in Houston who take one’s money with nary a smile (or a word of the English language). Folks smiled, called out hellos and really seemed to mean it when they said ‘Come back now”.

Landrum, Tryon and Columbus are spread along the SC & NC border some 10 miles apart from each other. At one time, they were all railroad towns and their main streets still border the tracks.

Tryon is the crown jewel, the upper crust, the cream of the crop. It has a charming, nicely resorted main street, with a couple of good antique shops, some stores that cater to the locals , a several small restaurants and a coffee shop/ internet café that serves a tasty latte. The stores have window boxes bright with red geraniums and there are orange day lilies everywhere. The streets are bordered by nicely kept stone and wooden houses with lovely yards and lush and colorful gardens. The streets run along a series of gently rolling hills up above the main street.

Landrum is the town that is solidly middle class but rising in the world. It has antique stores too, but a couple of them are barely a step up from their junque store origins. The restaurants don’t have any fancy drinks but the coffee is good. Downtown still has a few empty storefronts and the hardware store looks more utilitarian than quaint. Some of the houses need a coat of paint and the landscaping tends more toward scruffy lawns rather than English cottage gardens. However, there is a store selling fancy candles and handmade, good quality pottery so you know the town is on the up and up.

Columbus is the poor relation of the three, the one who is poor white trash and lives in the trailer park over yonder. The two block main street houses not one but two tattoo parlors and two tiendas, which cater strictly to the migrant Hispanic population and whose windows are adorned with “Dinaros al Mexico” signs. There only one coffee shop that looks down at the heels and assorted dusty, empty buildings.

Interesting how three towns so close together can be so different.

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