Butch says maybe it’s time to come home

By Butch Dale

Last month a fellow came to the library to visit with me and see our collection of Darlington town and school memorabilia. He grew up here, and after high school, he attended college and started his career . . . living in a large city most of his life. He now lives alone in a large metropolitan area . . . his wife having passed away some time ago. We had an enjoyable conversation and reminisced about the past. He inquired about the lack of businesses here in town, compared to the time when he was a youngster. The drug store, cafe, barber shop, furniture store, appliance store, pool room and many other “Mom and Pop” businesses that were on Main Street are gone, and the buildings have been converted into apartments for low-income renters. The only retail businesses left are a hardware store and beauty shop. “So sad to see the downtown area this way,” he lamented.

My town is not much different than most of the other small towns in Montgomery County. When the small high schools were closed, the little towns started to die . . . not population-wise . . . but business-wise. Most are now just bedroom communities for the residents who work and shop elsewhere.

Many of you former residents are Baby Boomers who have worked at your chosen profession and are now retired. I also know that many of you former residents live in or around large cities . . . speaking of which, my wife and I attended the Indiana State Fair this past summer, and as I drove I-65 and 465, and then down Keystone Avenue, I wondered how people could stand to drive in that congested traffic every day. And what about the noise, crime, racial strife, homeless people, high prices, crowded stores, etc, etc. . . . not for me!

Each evening, after I have eaten and had my last cup of coffee, I take a walk with my dog down the gravel road to the nearby creek. Very seldom does a car come down our road. I watch the birds, rabbits, deer and occasional coyote scurry away as I walk. I gaze across the fields and see the reddish colored clouds as the sun settles in the west. It is peaceful and quiet. And here in town many residents also take a quiet evening stroll down the tree-lined sidewalks, stopping and visiting with friends and neighbors. Yes, it is like that in the rural areas and small towns here in our county.

There is an old saying that “you can never go home again,” because it will never be the same as it was when you were growing up. To some extent, that is true. Many of you may enjoy the big city life . . . the hustle and bustle and amenities, and perhaps your family lives close by. But to those of you who are sick of big city life, tired of waking up in the morning and wondering what you are going to do each day, tired of sitting in your recliner and staring at the God-awful TV shows that exist today because you are afraid to venture out, tired of seeing the skyrocketing crime in your city, tired of worrying about the decisions your local ultra-liberal politicians are making . . . let me ask you this question: If you have no family close by, what are you waiting for? When are you coming back home . . . when you are interred here in the local cemetery?

You could be back here in your hometown . . . back to your roots . . . doing volunteer work for the town and local organizations, coaching a little league team, joining a club or church group. Yes, take a walk out to the covered bridge. Throw your fishing line out from the banks of Sugar Creek or the Conservation Club. Enjoy your meal as you watch the entertainment at the fall festival. Have a beer with your buddies at the American Legion hall, or a cup of coffee with the guys at the Mini-Mart. Help the neighbor lady plant flowers in her backyard. Work for a local farmer during planting and harvest. Exercise inside the armory/community center. Visit our nice library and select a good book. Watch the local boys and girls compete in sports and musical events at the high school. And just enjoy the peace and quiet. Your remaining years can be right back here . . . whether it be Darlington, Linden, Waveland, Ladoga . . . or any of the other little towns in our beautiful county.

And yes . . . we desperately need people to start up some new businesses. Some of you have the financial ability to do just that. Will you get rich? Can you compete with the large retail chains? No, but I’ll bet you’ll make a profit and have lots of fun! And if you start up an old-time drug store, I promise that I will walk across the street from the library, and I will be the first in line to order a “sawdust sundae” and “red river” cherry phosphate. I will then buy a pack of baseball cards, and sit on the bench out front . . . and keep my fingers crossed that I will get a Mickey Mantle card. And I will give you my stick of Topps gum . . . “Welcome back home!”

John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.