It's extremely difficult fitting in when the fishbowl in which you live is an unfamiliar rural territory that could have been taken right out of the movie, Deliverance. Everywhere there were faces of strangers waiting and watching, but what they were watching and waiting for made me a little uneasy. Vernon was dubbed "Nub City" because so many residents there make limb loss insurance claims to supplement their income. In 1981 Vernon was featured in a documentary highlighting the eccentricities of the people who lived there. The movie angered many residents who felt the documentary portrayed the area in a negative light. Negative light? How could blowing off your arm or foot with a shotgun for insurance money be considered negative? Shouldn't it be considered creative and ingenious instead? Oops! There goes my good old Maine sarcasm acting up again!
I was only eighteen when I became the new kid on the block in this
small Southern town with a population of less than one thousand. My new
position wasn't exactly the position I wanted; yet this
position definitely had its comical advantages. I could tell by the
inquisitive looks people gave us as they drove by my brother, Brian's
place that they hadn't quite figured out who belonged with whom and what was
going on onside. This was something I was used to by now and always liked the
initial reactions I got when the truth finally came out. And the truth always
did come out...eventually! But for the time being I was going to savor the
looks I was getting and just sit back and let people wonder. Being the object
of speculation sometimes can have very interesting outcomes and in this case,
the outcome was not only interesting, but a lasting one as well.
My brother, Brian liked the game. He liked being admired. I laughed
when he set up his weight lifting equipment outside in the front yard. Not long
after he started his daily workouts, the drive-bys increased. The brave ones
did walk-bys and even waved hello occasionally. We'd been there several days,
when early one evening Brian decided it was time to take a walk
"uptown". We strolled through the center of what seemed to be a
one-horse town...a post office, a grocery store named the Dixie Dandy, a
small hamburger joint, a gas station and of course, a real live honky tonk on the outskirts of town called The Cat's Eye.
A group of locals
were clustered around a bench placed outside the post office. The area was
considered the town square. As we approached, the noise from the small crowd
died down in anticipation. When we reached the group, Brian stopped and we
introduced ourselves to the handful of people who seemed quite mesmerized by
our presence. We chatted long enough to show them that Yankees could be
friendly. As we left we knew we had given them plenty to talk about for
days to come.
The ice had been broken and now I was anxious to see what would
follow. In the next few days I met another female who became my first
friend. Carol was from Miami and like me, she had found her way to Vernon
under unusual circumstances. Maybe the fact that we were outsiders was what
gave us an immediate common bond. From the moment we met, it seemed like we had
been friends forever and at our age that title came with the subtitle of
"partners in crime". We were two new females in a very small
town. That dubious distinction earned us the title of being new
meat...me, a thinly sliced medium rare evenly spiced roast beef and Carol, a slightly thicker sliced brown
sugar cured ham. From the moment I met Carol I had a hunch that
our time in Vernon was going to be a learning experience for both of us.
Looking back now all I can proclaim is how right I was!