Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More on small towns

I love small towns. I use one in my Ellen McKenzie series, Santa Louisa aka Paso Robles, CA., and have watched both of them grow over the last few years, but still remain small towns. Grandparents pick kids up after school and three generations go to the high school football games. Everyone knows everyone else, and that can sometimes be intrusive, but it sure helps when your next door neighbor plucks your kid out from behind the horse barn along with her own, where they were trying to light the matches that dad used the night before to light the barbaque. Those close relationships come in real handy when constructing a murder plot. Secrets are harder to hold onto when everyone knows your family history generations past, and has no hesitation talking about it. Residents of small towns share lots of things besides gossip. They'll turn out to celebrate weddings, christinings, and funerals. They'll bring cassaroles, pies, and cakes to any and all of these events and they stick together in times of grief and times of tragedy.
I live in Gaffney, South Carolina. We have been in the news a lot these last couple of weeks. A seriel killer landed in our town. Our town! Quiet, comfortable, friendly Gaffney. For the first time, folks locked their doors. They did more than that. They piled pans, bells, and anything else that might make a nose against them. Big dogs got adopted. One woman I know kept her shotgun with her, hung on her arm, for almost a week. I don't know if she knows how to shoot it, but it was there. I am scared of guns and have never owned one, but thought flightingly of buying some amunition. Why, I don't know. All I could have done was throw it at the guy if he turned up on my doorstep and I don't think that would have done much good. But we were scared witless. All of us. The killings were so random, so sensless, anyone could be the next victim. This wasn't a book, filled with hair raising thrills, this was real fear, the kind that made you leave on all of the porch lights and made your eyes pop open in the miiddle of the night whenever you heard a noise. The memory of that fear will not disappear quickly. The random cruelty of those shootings will leave a mark that will not be erased from this small community any time soon. And the grief that weighs on the families of the victims will be shared, in some small part, by all of us. The killer is dead and our fear is slowly dying as well. Life will gradualy return to normal. but I hope that another memory about these awful few days will remain with us. This community did what it always does, it came together. People comforted, protected, prayed for each other. They fed each other, hugged each other, and stood ready to do whatever needed to be done. And they will continue to do that. Small towns are wonderful places to live. Kathleen Delaney And Murder For Dessert