History in a Country Town

Boucher Stevens, editor of the Quitman Record, speaks to us of life and death and change this Memorial Day from the pages of the Skidmore Standard, June 10, 1902:

History in a Country Town.

Everyone knows that the big world is making history all the time. But the history that is making year by year and day by day in a country town is as eternal as the big world’s history, even though not of as wide an interest. The same country paper that contains in its patent inside the big headlines, “McClurg Dead,” “Oscar Wilde Dead,” “John P. Herrington Dead,” and “Senator Davis No More,” is just as likely to have on its long primer page as near top of column as contacts with Scott’s Emulsion, Kodol, eetc. call for, then in the country editor’s modest Condensed Clarendon, the head, “Obituary of Uncle Jim Brown,” directly followed by “Resolutions of Whoopla Lodge in Memory of Richard Rickets,” and tha tby a “Card of thanks,” in which the family of Miss Mary Jones desire to express their heartfelt thanks to the friends who so kindly assisted them during the sickness and death of the aforesaid Mary.

The boy takes the papers to the post-office, on the way seeing a young man looking at a casket for his wife’s father, and when he returns proud over having caught an item the editor makes a note, “Get obituary of Wm. sutton,” and thus the getting out one week’s paper is completed and capped by the assurance that some one will bring in a piece to help fill next week’s paper.

The country town is the only place where people are loyal and loving. We all go to the funeral of Wm. Sutton on Saturday afternoon. The pastor tells of his virtues and estimates the amount of good he has done in the community. The real thing that death brings is change, not sadness, just as death itself is really change and not death. The sadness comes from contemplation of the change.

The country town is made up of characters, and when one of them has left the stage forever where is the play? The children are playing their serio-comic drama of school-life; if the loved or hated teacher dies, who will play the leading role? Another. And the whole play is changed. No mathematics on earth will tell how much of how many different sentiments will be added to or left off from how many children’s lifelong minds by this one change.

The grown people are playing what might be classed all the way from farce comedy to high tragedy, entitled, “The Mayor and His Subjects.” If the honest old mayor dies what becomes of the play. The wicken footpads are sorry they ever padded their feet in disobedience of his order, and then go on padding and worry about his successor. And the country town moves on – “in the same old rut” – so the philosopher says – but ah, how changed.

Change! Change is history; all of it. Change, change, change, change, — born, grown, settled, changed in a twinkling. Change is life, history, death, eternity, — all.

— Boucher Stevens.