Shazam! Sometimes I get downright homesick for Mayberry. Mayberry, the true star of the Andy Griffith show. The fictional hamlet that makes each viewer nostalgic for the town and life that lives in their hearts.
Overly busy lives can cause us to dream of a time gone by, a time when neighbors stopped by for a cool drink, families gathered nightly around the family dinner table and folks had nothing better to do on an evening than sit on the porch.
My small Midwest town is not Mayberry, but aspects of it exist for those willing to break from culture and their electronic devices. Mayberry can be a state of mind, a purposeful pursuit and a dream we hold tight in the midst of a non-Mayberry world.
A cute downtown Kokomo street in spite of the cold cloudy day.
Cheers, another television show, sang about what we all desire in their opening song. “Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.” Small town living, close knit communities, generations of families all living nearby, this is the Mayberry dream. This is what you can still get in communities hidden here and there in America.
I’m a Nevadan transplanted in the heart of the Midwest by way of Texas. The smallest city I ever lived in had a population of 135,000, the largest had 2.3 million. Now I live on the outskirts of a bustling town of 57,000. Not quite Mayberry, but my downsize provided the opportunity for Midwest living, an entirely different way of life than I had ever known.
The train depot turned into a restaurant.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me. I am a Francophile. It’s nothing immoral, just an above average infatuation with the country of France. I’d love to share photos and stories of my quaint life in the French countryside. However, I’ve never even been to France and instead of relishing life in the rolling hills of Provence, I live in a flat sea of never ending corn and soybean fields.
It is this Mayberry-esque land of corn that has captured my heart. I haven’t stopped dreaming of France, but it is life in the Midwest that my heart desires to share with you. This city girl has learned much over the past 20 years. I have learned to appreciate the beauty of the land that someone once told me was only a frozen tundra. I’m sure it exists, but I have never seen a greener green than a corn field under a vibrant blue Indiana summer sky.
In the center of the state of Indiana, the crossroads of America, you will still find produce for sale on the side of the road with an unmanned jar, where you leave your cash, using the honor system. Signs stating “eggs for sale” pepper every country road. Tractors drive along at a snail’s pace on the highways during harvest season as they head from one field to another. Every store in town has an ample supply of canning supplies available, year-round. Life in the Midwest.
Multiple generations all live near each other. There are people who have never left the state. You are the odd one if you don’t participate in 4-H. Front doors are left unlocked and I even have a friend who leaves the keys in the truck in case someone might need to use it. Life in the Midwest.
In the summer, the days are pleasant and the nights are cool, tree frogs sing and bull frogs thrum. In June we pick fresh strawberries and July is blueberry month. Mid-summer is when the fire flies make their grand appearance and put on the most amazing light show anywhere. Driving past a corn field filled with the twinkling lights of thousands of fireflies is the Midwest’s version of the northern lights. The August Perseid meteor shower is a date written on the calendar and calls for blankets on the lawn all night. Life in the Midwest.
Winter is for snow. Homemade ice rinks are not uncommon. Ice fishing is a bewildering sport I have no interest in, yet many don’t mind freezing on the ice while fishing. The once verdant fields make way for a magical white landscape. Icicles grow long and the days grow short. Life in the Midwest.
From time to time I plan on taking you for a stroll through the Midwest. The pace is slower here and corn and soybean fields make up most of our scenery. However it’s a remnant of Mayberry. It’s a lifestyle foreign to city dwellers, one I hope remains the same for years to come. Small-town USA may not be in your travel plans so I hope you will enjoy a little internet visit now and then. The Midwest is in part to blame for my great desire to enjoy a Breezy Porch and invite you to join me.
My friend Charlene has invited us to head to her farm for a short visit and I asked if I could bring you along. She owns The Pampered Goats. Not only is it her business name, her goats are actually pampered, all 60 of them. Charlene truly loves her critters and makes wonderful products from their milk. Charlene and her husband Rex, a retired pastor live in the home that Rex’s grandparents moved to its current site generations ago. She is one of the many, many delightful Midwesterners that I’ve come to love. If you’re looking for acceptance, hospitality and kindness, head to the Midwest.
If you’re looking for a little humor I also suggest heading to the Midwest. Charlene shared a story about Crab Orchard, Kentucky, population 842. She lived there in the 90’s. She told me that the one police car for the town didn’t have a flashing red light. To rectify the situation, they hung a flashlight from the rearview mirror and when needed, turned it on and spun it around. This is true! Barney Fife may not have had a bullet for his gun but at least he had a light for his car.
Mayberry may only exist in television land and in our fondest dreams, but I believe there is still a touch of Mayberry in the small towns of the Midwest. There are still places where the people value the American dream, care about their neighbors, rock on their porches and don’t mind watching the corn grow.
I would love to hear from each of you. Do any of you have a touch of Mayberry in your home town? What do you love about the place you call home?
Charlene’s Goat Milk Fudge
Charlene has graciously shared her family’s 50 year old fudge recipe. ENJOY!
Over medium heat in a heavy 4 quart pan…
melt 1 stick of butter (not margarine)
12 oz of goat’s milk,
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Stir constantly until sugar is melted
Cook and stir constantly to soft, ball stage
Take off heat
Add 1 cup marshmallow fluff
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
stir until chocolate chips are melted
Pour into 9 x 13 buttered pan
cut into pieces
makes 5 pounds
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