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Friday, February 1, 2013

Small Town Life: While the Tide is Out

Small Town
Life
 by Chris Bridges




“If a tree falls in the woods without anyone present, does it still make a noise?”
Well, what about… When we are away from the lake, is it still there? Yes, I usually think about ridiculous things like that, and today just started as usual.

A quick decision and out the door with coffee in hand, grabbing for whatever I might need, my mind on the road long before I even left the driveway. 

Several weeks have passed since our last big bash, but the memories are still fresh. Man, that old grill can cook… Even though nobody every compliments the dude standing over it. 

Dogs playing harder than the boys because mama’s layering on the sunscreen, beach chairs transformed into dock chairs, and the same old Willie Nelson tape has survived another year.

When I usually take this trip, I think about who’s going to be there, who is coming and where I will sleep. But, this time around it’s just me and despite my vivid memory of a crowd at the house, today I’m alone.
There are no boats to follow on this trip which allow for a record setting pace of getting downtown. 

This is a humble, dedicated, loved and admired place. I’m talking about main street Wedowee. Yes, downtown Wedowee, Alabama.

A few turns later, I arrive at my destination. The leaves lingering in the trees were few. All the others hide the gravel driveway. It’s so nice seeing the water. I cleaned a spot on an old cross tie and sat a while. No boats. No crunch on the road above. Cool air had replaced thick summer breezes. Everything was there. 

Everything seemed to be at ease. Retaining walls at rest. Docks relaxed on the lake bed. Steps were absent of wet footprints. Chairs folded and stacked. Hammock completely still. The porch rails have all dried after holding summer’s towels and the old grill…still there.

Time passed quickly. Some of the things I wanted to do had to wait, but I did get the driveway clean and leaves blown off the deck. I packed up and headed for town then eventually back home, stopping at the local store for a drink. Once again, my mind started to tell me a story.

Unfortunately, we do neglect to go back to Wedowee during the off-season. Jobs, the holidays, and whatever our calendar says we should do take the place of our summer retreat. Winter in Wedowee is much different from the summer it has come to know, but it holds on to the memories of summer giggles, refueling, and revving motors. 

Back into town, making my turn, my mind still racing. We transient lake people love our summer home. Some have even made the move, while others dream of busting our alarm clocks and retiring here. Today it was slow - it's that time of year. Some of the local businesses rely on the love of summer and summer's crowds, but are making it. Open signs on in familiar places, lights off in a few. It just feels right here. I have spent hours stopping by the store for a bag of ice then filling orders from waiting family already on the dock complaining about wakes. I don't know many locals yet but that doesn't stop the friendly hellos and handshakes or the polite cashier from smiling like everything in my buggy is for her.

 For a small little town, Wedowee is huge on family...part-time we are the family. We are the ones that will speed into the place and bust a stop sign on the back road near our house. We are the ones that pack the isles of every store during summer break. We are the ones that call it our summer home, our get away...our lake. 

Here it comes 431 bridge - the last place to see water when driving north. Crossing over, my head turns left looking down the river like I could see for miles. 

Our lake town is still there and doing just fine. Yes, the crowds are gone for now and the water is a little low, but that is just perfect. So, if you missed this winter, it’s really your loss. The hustle and bustle of mid-summer has gone, replaced with seasonal pride. The residents here want you to love the place and it shows in the detail. They must band together as a team. Wedowee is a highlight reel. You just need to see it again. Wake up. Think about it. Don’t check your To Do List. Make the drive. Spend some time in town visiting the shops, sticking your head in the door and saying your own hellos then buy your own cup of local coffee, clean off a spot in your second backyard and sit...while the tide is out.

 Before the fuss of spring or the panic of summer starts we should enjoy the memories and peacefulness of our lake. Maybe it’s just me with my usual unusual way of thinking, but if I’ve got you considering a day trip or weekend stay in winter Wedowee, my job is done.

Illustration by Tom Scott.

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