Wednesday, October 26, 2016

City Country Girl



Last year, my parents and I went on a road trip to Mableton, GA, where we’d lived during my formative years—age seven to twelve—and still have family there. I’d agreed to speak at a writers conference and arranged to visit with family and friends during our stay.

On our ten hour drive—we made frequent stops at Krystals. Arkansas doesn't have them, so we loaded up while we could. If you've never had one of their burgers, I'm told they're similar to White Castles. Anyway in between Krystals, I learned some things.


I knew my parents were both born and raised near the rural Arkansas town where we live now. I knew they moved to Michigan when I was a year old, then we’d trekked to Indiana, a suburb of Chicago, and finally Mableton. My aunt and uncle made the trek also and still live there with both of my cousins in the area also. But I’d never thought to ask why we made all those moves.

With time to kill, I asked. Turns out we followed the pipeline to Michigan, then Indiana, then Illinois. The pipeline dried up when I was seven, but there was a housing boom in Atlanta. What really fascinated me was that we never had anywhere to land during any of those moves. With each trek, my dad found a job and a place to live once we got where we were going. My parents moved on faith. With a baby—toddler—child in tow.

When we first moved to Georgia, Daddy and my uncle found jobs in carpentry in Atlanta. My aunt and uncle found a house pretty quickly in Mableton. We found a huge house that had been cut up into apartments. For about a month, we lived in the apartment house and on the weekends, we drove around looking for a house. Without knowing a soul or much about the areas we visited. On one of our weekend jaunts, they found a rent house five minutes away from my aunt and uncle.

We moved in. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood close to my age and my school was at the end of our block. It was a walk to school, stay at home mom, jump rope and ride bikes in the street kind of neighborhood. An idyllic place to grow up with woods on two corners. I don’t even know who owned the woods, but Daddy built us a fort in them and all the kids spent hours there every day.

When I was nine, my grandfather died. My parents had always planned to move home to rural Arkansas. Grandpa’s death set the plan in motion as my parents faced the fact that their parents wouldn’t be around forever. We made the move home the summer I turned twelve. My aunt, uncle, and cousins were supposed to follow. But my oldest cousin got married and they ended up staying in Georgia.

At first, I thought my life was over. My cousins visited every summer, but they weren’t here. Twelve is an awkward age anyway and especially as the new girl. I didn’t feel like I fit in. I’d always lived in a neighborhood and close to a city. Here, the houses were spread out with a quarter of a mile in between and a small city ten miles away. The trek to Little Rock is over an hour. My plan was to graduate and move back to Georgia. Until I met my future husband when I was fourteen.

Over the years, rural Arkansas has grown on me. The houses are closer together now, but there are still lots of woods and space in between. My husband pastors our church in the  city ten miles away. Now with a population of seven thousand, it would be way too big for me to live in and I sure don’t want to reside anywhere near Little Rock traffic.

During our stay in Georgia last summer, we visited with our former neighbors and friends. Only one man still lives in the old neighborhood and a lot of my friends’ parents have passed away. My old idyllic neighborhood isn’t the same. The woods are gone. The street has too much traffic for playing in the streets. Our old house is run down. It was a too short and bittersweet visit.


This picture was at the Varsity, another restaurant we miss since moving. Awesome slaw dogs, which is a hot dog with chili and cole slaw. They don't have these in Arkansas either. But we manage to get by. We get a chili dog from Sonic and then drive through Kentucky Fried Chicken for cole slaw. My Georgia friends thought that was really funny. That's my cousin back row left and my parents on the right. Mama's the one with her eyes closed, a family trait. It's usually me--I'm in the middle wearing lavendar. The other three are friends from the old neighborhood.

In hindsight, I’m thankful for the moves we made. For parents who stepped out on faith and trusted God to find that idyllic neighborhood and lifelong friends for us. I’m thankful for the brushes with city life and our final move to the country that made me who I am. For the Texas born husband He had waiting for me in rural Arkansas and the life we’ve built here. I’m thankful our fourteen year old son loves country life, even though he thinks I’m too city because I don’t like getting dirty.

That's him a few years ago with a baby calf at my parents' farm just to give you a glimpse of what my life is like now. We don't have a farm or any animals other than dogs and cats, but we live across a hayfield from my parents who have cows, a donkey, a horse, and a dog. Sometimes it smells like a barn lot around here, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As long as I don't have to get dirty, that is.

So what about you? Are you city or country? Do you like to get dirty? Ever had a slaw dog?



The Cowboy Next Door 
A charming cowboy moving in next door shouldn't be bad news. But veterinarian Ally Curtis knows Cody Warren—she'd never forget the boy who left her when she needed him most. Cody is doing everything he can to show his beautiful neighbor he's not the wild bull rider he once was, from helping her find homes for her beloved strays, to protecting her when her business is threatened. But Cody has a secret that keeps him from fully reaching out. Yet as they continue to work together to promote her shelter, he can't keep himself from hoping that Ally might have a home for him…in her heart.







17 comments:

Jean C. Gordon said...

Fascinating. We moved only one time when I was a child, also age 12, from city (Niagara Falls) to country village. I thought it was a great adventure. I'm not sure how I would have felt about multiple moves.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Jean, the good thing is I don't remember most of our moves. I remember IL and GA. But since I've grown to love AR, as an adult, I've moved three times within a 5 mile radius. I'm firmly planted here. And hoping my son is too. So far, he's never moved.

Jennifer Hibdon said...

I moved the summer before third grade from a 12 acre country place, near family, to a large farm, quite a ways away from everyone. Four years later we bought an ajoining farm, with a bigger house. My parents and oldest brother still live on the farm. Here in Texas, I live in a city. I much prefer my Michigan crountry lifestyle!

Merrillee Whren said...

We moved a lot when I was a kid, and my hubby moved us a lot after we got married. Moving has been a part of my life. I've lived in eleven states and have been to all 50 states.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Oh but Jennifer, you're in Texas. I love Texas. When we visit my husband's there annually, I always say, Okay let's just stay here. But then when I come home, I love home too.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Military, Merrillee? My husband's dad was in the air force. He lived in Guam and I don't even remember where else all by the time he was ten.

Debby Giusti said...

Shannon, I loved learning about your youth. I'm an Army Brat. We moved every two to three years. Some of my first memories were living in Japan. I married an Army guy and continued the nomadic life until he was assigned to Atlanta, eventually retired, and we now call the area home...so yes, I know about the Varsity! :)

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Oh how I miss the Varsity, Debby. There's no chili like Varsity chili. If you can find a place in AR that does slaw dogs, they don't call them that. And they want to put mustard on them too. Ugh!

Lenora said...

I'm Georgia born but moved to Louisiana a few years after I got married. We lived in Atlanta for six years in the late seventies and early eighties. Love me a Varsity hotdog!! Now I'm in Florida. But I'm still in the South!!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

That's why we hit it off, Lenora - the Georgia connection. We left GA in 1977. Just told my age. I'm craving a Varsity slaw dog now. Should have gone to Sonic and KFC after church tonight. Not the same, but still pretty yummy.

Mary Alford said...

We moved to a small town when I was around 4 and I lived in that small town until I graduated from high school and moved to Austin. Living in Austin for a small town girl was like moving to another world. But I adjusted, and eventually met my hubby in Austin and moved to the country. I'd say, I'm definitely a country girl.

Christine Johnson said...

Fun to learn more about you, Shannon. Thank you for sharing! I'm a small town girl. My parents still live in the house my dad built, so my moves came in college and after marrying. I've never had a slaw dog, but they sound yummy.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Mary, I bet that was culture shock. Are you still in TX?

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Christine,
There is a place 30 minutes away from us, Hwy 55. They have slaw dogs--but don't call them that. The chili isn't The Varsity, but I've put a craving on myself. We might have to go soon.

Jade Graham said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
patriciajohnsromance.com said...

I'm city, but I live in a smallish town now, and I just love it! I met and married my husband in Toronto, Canada (our largest city) and we moved out to Alberta for my husband's work. We like small town living, but we need some comforts, we've realized. We aren't quite tough enough to do rural life!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Patricia. My rule is to live within 10 minutes of Walmart. Just about anything I need, I can get there. We also live within 10 minutes of our church. Our school used to be 2 miles away, but it ended up getting consolidated. So now school is 10 minutes away too. The problem is school is 10 mins west and church is 10 mins east. Since my husband is a pastor and our son is 14, we spend a lot of time traveling back and forth in a 20 mile radius. But I'd rather do that than live in the city.