Monday, January 5, 2009

Attending a Huge Social Occasion in Rural Iowa

It was one of the more spectacular sunsets I have seen in a long long time. This is partly due to living in town where sunsets are obscured by your neighbors house but mostly because it was truly a spectacular sunset. Almost a third of the sky was a brilliant orange and another third was various shades of pink. As I drove south alone, I had a hard time concentrating on the road instead of looking always to the right. It was a shame that house after house that I passed was empty. In fact, probably most of the southern west corner of the county was empty. Where were they? They were all where I was heading, at the visitation for a former neighbor of mine and father of some close friends.

Richard was the father of the other two boys in my graduating class. There were only three of us boys and the other two were fraternal twins. On a side note, there was also one of the five girls in our class of eight also there so with half our class there, it would have been almost like a mini-reunion had it not been for Richard's death. He had a heart attack while driving and ended up hitting a concrete bridge railing head on. The coroner and witnesses to the accident have surmised that he was dead before hitting the railing so it was a quick way to go and nobody else was hurt. You can't ask for anything more than that.

In the very rural area of Iowa where I grew up, there are no bigger social occasions than when a disaster strikes or someone dies. More than once I have been to a house or barn fire where half the county stands and talks with the owners while the volunteer fire department puts out the fire. In this case, it was a death and since I knew the man of honor and his sons well, I decided I needed to show up. I saw people I haven't seen in twenty years and I spent a long time talking and laughing with everyone before I got through the receiving line and started on the long drive back home.

I hadn't made any new year resolutions because that has never been my sort of thing to do but on the way home, I resolved that I should make an attempt to contact all seven of my former classmates and set up some sort of reunion this year. Its been seventeen years and I'm sure we all have stories to tell. With the older generation of farmers dying out and almost gone now, there won't be too many more social occasions where we can all meet up.

6 comments:

Beau said...

Glad you could all get together, even though it was on a sad occasion. I think it's amazing that everyone knows each other so well, and you have that personal connection- my high school class size was so big I didn't even know most of the other kids. And now, even though we live in a rural area, there's a mix of old and new here, and people don't really know one another.

Sage said...

It was good that you could be there... Wow, you had a small class--there were 750 in my graduating class!

The Real Mother Hen said...

How big was your town when you went to school?
And how big it is now?

Ed Abbey said...

Beau - Everyone knowing each other has its disadvantages too. Nothing remains secret for long.

Sage - At one time, our school was the smallest in the state. It closed up a few years ago and merged with neighboring larger schools.

Mother Hen - The high school was in a town of about 250 people and grade school in a neighboring town of 350. I would guess both towns are now down about 20% of those figures with the school gone.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Well in some parts of the world, people have to pay a lot of money to get into school that size.

PhilippinesPhil said...

And I thought I had a small class...

Heck yeah, it COULD have gone better. He totaled the car, right? Two months ago, my mom's friend had a DWD (died while driving) as well. He pulled over on the highway, or his wife grabbed the wheel as he pushed the brake, and then proceeded to die as soon as they stopped.

Deaths... It seems like someone I know dies once a week anymore. My ex just called to tell me that one of our friends just died of cancer. Is it getting older where the news of death seems to arrive so often, or is it because I live here? I'm too depressed to figure it out...