Even though the Tri-State isn’t a very big place, it sometimes, to me, feels as though it is.
Growing up in Williamson, I watched television that seemed to have its point of origin in Huntington and that made Huntington the big city. There were commercials advertising things like the Borden Burger and Stone and Thomas Department Store; nothing in Williamson was ever on television. Ever. I thought going to Huntington was just about as big as it got.
Huntington was a far-off place where they had exotic restaurants and where Mr. Cartoon lived, where local big kids went away to college and where some of my friends’ families moved and were never to be heard from again.
When I, too, went away to college there, it was intimidating for a child from the coalfields, but I was determined to master driving on a four-lane highway and living in a smaller personal space. I did it. In fact, I mastered the entire Tri-State and now it doesn’t seem nearly as large and exotic.
I recently got a huge reminder of how small we really are.
I was interviewing a woman in Huntington for a story. The interview morphed into “two women just talking,” as many of my interviews do. It turns out she lives within a quarter of a mile from me.
In fact, it turns out I live within a tenth of a mile from where she grew up.
As we continued sharing information, she said she had known my husband.
“I remember Joe,” she said. “He was a high school boy when I was a kid and I had a crush on him. He was cute! I would walk by his house and look down the hill into the yard to see if he was outside. He always waved and said ‘hello.’”
She continued telling me about her dad and, eventually, I realized I had met him years ago when I was dating my future husband. Her dad, Mr. Sowards, was a good friend to my husband and his mother. In fact, she said her dad had a little crush on her. She and her four sisters teased him when she was outside and told him to come out and talk to her.
I usually enjoy interviewing people and most always leave interviews feeling happy, but when I left this one, I felt uplifted, partly to have met someone with whom I had so many previously unrecognized connections, and partly to have been reminded I still live in a very small town.
LEE WARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2661.