(Mom standing in front of the house where I grew up)
I remember when the word community meant knowing your neighbors, going to the same church and school with the people you knew. Central to the community, was the little neighborhood store. The store was always small, but had a little bit of everything including gasoline pumps outside. And, by the way, I remember when gas was 15 cents a gallon.
The store had grocery items like flour, sugar, shortening, eggs, usually from a local farmer, along with shelves of canned goods. Behind the counter was the kid magnet rows of candy usually for pennies. There was always the big metal drink box that kept bottled drinks super cold with circulating ice water. There were no canned drinks back then. A kid could make money by gathering up all the glass drink bottles in the neighborhood. No neighborhood store was complete without cleaning items, brooms, mops, laundry detergent and so on as well as cleaning supplies for humans like soap and shampoo.
No matter when I went to the store, usually running errands for my mother, I would meet someone I knew. I felt a part of the community in those days. I knew the owners and their daughter very well because they went to my church across the street from their store. The wife was my Sunday school teacher. Once a person has known life on a small scale like that, it sticks in the mind and heart forever.
Now that my town has grown into a metropolitan city with an international airport, a bunch of huge banks downtown that have taken the place of department stores like Belk’s, Ivey’s, and Sears and Roebuck, there’s not much reason to venture into town. All those stores have moved into malls or classy shopping centers. Shopping centers and malls may be convenient, and I can understand why they’ve become so popular, but when I go to any of them, it’s rare to meet anyone I know.
I realize I’m waxing nostalgic here, but I miss that sense of community I had as a kid. I live one street off from one of the central streets that runs straight through the heart of town. I can still see the remnants of what was once a little community until it was eaten up by the big city. I wonder sometimes if it would be such a terrible thing if we didn’t have gasoline so available any more. I would imagine we would convert back to community life in which we could walk or ride a bike to a neighborhood store for those household supplies and venture into town only once in a great while for something special. I would know my neighbors better and feel more a part of my community. Maybe it would be a good thing if we didn’t have to get in our cars to get to stores and services.
All my western stories take place in a community like the one I remember from my childhood. Even though Hazard, Wyoming is fictional, it’s the kind of town I grew up in. Hazard is a place where everybody knows each other and they take care of each other. It’s the kind of place where I would love to live. I recently submitted a new Wilding western to PRP titled Home for the Heart. Banjo’s twin boys, Hank and Kit have grown into men. Hank owns a ranch and avoids marriage at all costs, and Kit, who suffers from PTSD after WWII, is a lawyer running for mayor of Hazard.
Here is a bit about Home for the Heart:
Here is a bit about Home for the Heart:
Love doesn’t come easy…for some, it may never come at all.
Lucille Thoroughgood is a social worker for orphan children. She is known to the town’s folk as dependable, logical, determined, and…well, stubborn. But Lucille has a secret affection for the determined bachelor, Hank Wilding.
Hank Wilding loved hard and lost. He has sworn to never marry. After Lucille makes a bargain with him, he agrees to allow troubled and physically challenged children to ride his horses as equine therapy. One of the orphans is a half Lakota boy, Chayton, who reminds Hank of his own father’s painful childhood.
But danger follows in the shadows of the rejected, embittered teenager that may take the life of someone Hank and the town of Hazard holds dear.
So, as you can see, I’ve been living in memory lane for a bit. Right now I’m plotting out Kit’s story and the irrepressible, June Wingate. Things are really heatin’ up in Hazard.
Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: