That Small Town Life

It was really Facebook that led us there.

My mom’s online search for a nostalgic soda shop took her to a Facebook page for one in rural Kansas. A few Saturday afternoons later we drove into town on Main St., but only a handful of Marquette’s 600 residents were around.  “Get me out of here,” my college-age brother said as somebody drove a lawnmower through the intersection.

Inside the soda shop the walls were lined with knick-knacks for sale. Another customer smiled at my seven-year-old brother. “What are you going to get?” she asked as we read the menu. I usually try to decide between cookie dough and Oreo, but here there was a sundae with both of them. Nice. Our group ordered a sundae, four shakes, and one java jolt—a coffee and ice cream concoction. An employee made our orders behind the counter and a bored preteen played some electronic game in a booth in the loft. No one else was there.

Half a block away, a one-room schoolhouse stood as if it had housed students just last week, although the schoolmistress probably wouldn’t tolerate the dust on the desks. The piano was open, books—some in German—were on the shelves, and a dunce hat sat in the corner.

As we stepped out of the schoolhouse back onto Main St., the lawnmower parked at the bank across the street.

Friends told me about a visit they took to Lindsborg—considerably bigger than Marquette at 3400 residents—several years ago. As they walked around town, people kept stopping to inform them their one-year-old daughter was missing a shoe. They realized this, and were carrying their daughter, slightly annoyed to be stopped over and over again. A few hours later, as they visited Great-Grandma in town, the police called. They had their toddler’s shoe. “How did they know we were at her house?” the mother still wonders.

When we were first driving into town, a SUV followed on our bumper. The driver honked and swerved around us in the wrong lane. Then she parked, jumped out, ran across the street and entered the passenger side of a waiting ambulance. The sirens began blaring and it hurried off. “They’re volunteers, but they’re certified,” the soda shop owner told us later.

When I entered the soda shop again for a cup of ice, another customer, relaxed and talking with several regulars, smiled at me. “Where are you from?” He knew I wasn’t from Marquette, just as Lindsborg’s residents knew where the guests were. He was ready to be part of others’ lives, like the volunteer paramedic and Lindsborg’s residents. And maybe a prairie schoolmistress.

Not even Facebook has changed that.

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