The other evening The Deer Hunter and I did something we rarely do, we went out to eat. I told him I’d pick him up after work.
He parks his truck in a parking lot just behind the County Maintenance Shop where he works, and just across from the Historic Cherokee County Courthouse.
Town takes on a totally different air after the working day is over. It’s not exactly a deserted feeling, although there aren’t many people around. It’s more of a restful easy feeling. The hustle and bustle of town gives way to a calmer atmosphere as soon as the clock hand moves past 5:00 p.m.
Once we finished eating I dropped The Deer Hunter off at his truck so we could both head for home. As I set in my car and waited for him I looked around noticing the change in atmosphere that had happened in the short time it took us to eat. I was suddenly hit by an overwhelming sense of place.
I thought how could I possibly live in a town that Pap and his brothers didn’t grow up knowing?
There’s a staggering difference between growing up in the country or in town, even when it’s a small town like Murphy. Yet town plays an important role in everyone’s life. It did when Pap was a boy just like it does today. I mean where else would I go to get my groceries or where else would Pap have gone to get his first drivers license?
A common phrase thrown around when the subject of Appalachia is discussed is ‘sense of place.’
Appalachians like their place. Whether their homes be mansions on a hill or cabins in a holler, they have historically been fiercely attached to them.
I’ve shared a Loyal Jones joke with you before, the one about Appalachians having to be chained up in Heaven near the end of the week or else they’d try to go home every weekend.
I know the sense of place in Appalachia is real, and I know it’s a legitimate characteristic of mountain people and has been for generations, yet I’ve never felt the actual realization of it as strongly as I did sitting in my car behind the courthouse on a beautiful evening in Murphy, NC.