Growing up, I lived three miles up a country road from a major four-lane highway. Traveling up Sand Valley Road as a child of ten years old, I could name every family of every home on that three-mile stretch. Fifty-seven years later, many of those homes are filled with strangers.

Our old farmhouse did not have a key to the front door. Not everyone we knew was an angel, but there was a level of mutual respect and personal boundaries. We were community.

During this time in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, funerals were three-day events carried out with two days of visitation in the home of the deceased and then the funeral in the local church. My father and mother went to every neighbor’s visitation and funeral. Mother carried a big platter of fried chicken that would never see a refrigerator for two days and Daddy took the big 30-cup coffee percolator owned by our church, but used by Methodist, Baptist, and heathen alike. We were community.

Photo by Arturo Au00f1ez on

Summer revivals and Sunday night singings were shared activities by most of the churches round and about. My parents attended many of them with me in tow. We sang from a hymnal of a different color, ours was called a redback songbook but it looked purple to me. However, I learned we all loved the same Jesus and enjoyed stumping on the same devil. We were community.

My Daddy and Mother were of the Great Depression Era. Prosperity to them was being warm in the wintertime regardless of the heat source. Having enough food for random drop-in visitors and a second helping for a skinny kid like me. Possessing the few dollars to take someone to the doctor for the cure-all shot of penicillin or a tooth pulling at the local dentist who pulled more than he filled rounded out our sense of having plenty. Oh, yeah, and having a car, a telephone, and a quarter for the magic show at the school assembly.

Our old farmhouse was functional not pretty. It was not a good house but it was a wonderful home. When I grew up and had a couple of logical thoughts, I realized the only time Daddy hired any repairs on our house was when one of our friends was having a tough time and needed a little money. I have recounted this many times as I looked back. We were community.

My parents were very community minded folks. More than I can tell, I heard my mother pray “out loud” when a rare ambulance screamed up our road. One of our neighbors was having the worst day of his life, if he was still living. If he died my Daddy, who was a wonderful Gospel singer, would “take off from work” early with no pay for the hours missed, to sing at his funeral with no pay. The family never considered paying him, nor did the thought enter his mind of needing compensation. We were community.

When I was about six, one of our neighbors died. If I looked up our road, I could see her house on the distant little rise. I overheard my parents talking about her arrangements and discussing who were to be her pallbearers. I asked my mother about the “paw-bears”, and she said it was the ones who carried the casket. I was a little confused and went to the road, straining my eyes when the hearse arrived. I was disappointed because there were no bears. That was the first crack I observed in my parent’s armor, they evidently did not know what they were talking about—there were no bears!

It was an honor back then to be a pallbearer. Ole boys who never saw a coat and tie except on a preacher or in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue were expected to have one if they were a pallbearer. They would show up for duty in a begged and borrowed coat and tie. The coat never fit, it was either too baggy, too tight, or too long. If he was young, I never saw his hands. The shirt rarely matched the tie. The tie was always tied too long or too short and ten years out of style. The pallbearers most always were very awkward looking, but they suffered through it because it was an honor to be asked. We were community.

We were not home one day when there was a terrible woods fire in our area. We had woods, forests only exited in story books along with piglets, goblins, and trolls. There was no volunteer fire department at the time. With no one at home and no one to call, our neighbors showed up. One had a tractor and the rest with pine boughs in hand to beat out the fire. The farmer cut a swath around our house with his cutting harrow. They turned our hunting dogs out of the pens to keep them from being burned alive. Our house was saved, and one beagle died when he was hit by a car. Our neighbors were our community.

I live half of a mile from my childhood home. We still have community, but it is not like it once was. Many of the people in my five-mile circle, I do not know. Some of the grown kids, I know a little bit. I knew their parents well. I do not know the names of the kid’s kids, but I could recite their heritage. We were once community.

The pews in some of our community churches are filled mostly with folks from another community. Many of us attend a church outside of our community. Hopefully, we love the same Jesus and stump on the same devil. Life happens and situations change. Nothing stays the same and change is a given surety.

While writing this, I am saddened and convicted. I am as much to blame as my unknown neighbors. We are too busy and too disconnected. Times have changed and so have we. I reminisce and long for some of the good things of our past.

Maybe, I need to buy a 30-cup coffee percolator like T.V. Whitt hauled around when someone died. I might keep the pot for two to three rounds of mourning families. The third family will say when clearing out from the wake, “Who was that old gray-headed man, who brought that big ole coffee maker we never used?”

Yours on the Journey,

Harry L. Whitt

15 Replies to “Community”

  1. Harry, you make me homesick for a time and place we both remember that no longer exists. (Maybe that is the same thing as being homesick for Heaven.) I think most folks re craving community now, though for some it is more a wispy dream than a clear memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, RuthAnne times have certainly changed. I moan for a lot of things that were a constant in the past, especially as I have cycled into an old man. I have learned to take things as they are, do what I can reasonably do, make the best of what’s before me, and long for a glorious future in eternity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A wonderful story of the past! I often talk about my old neighborhood in Rockledge , it was a community were we knew everyone and went to Church together. THOSE WERE THE GOOD OLE DAYS.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teresia. Wow, you lived just up the mountain from us. We even knew a lot of folks in Rockledge. Yep, good ole days but on our hot Alabama summers I always thank God for air conditioning!!


  3. People use to have time no money. Now people have more money less time. Folks pull in there garage and shut there door. I miss those days where you stood around and talk to your neighbors and friends. As bad as the pandemic was. It did bring back some of those times. They where just short lived. Now where back to chasing our tails.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. when i was a child my friends and i walked half-way to each others house to meet and go on to one or the others house to play no , car rides for us ,later we reversed and walked half-way back it was fun for us, we lived two miles apart

    Liked by 1 person

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