Traffic light in Apalachicola
My god! Come to a complete stop!
By Richard E. Noble
We measure our lives by traumatic events. I measure my life in Franklin County by three such traumatic events.
The first occurred when George, the Postmaster in Eastpoint, retired. My favorite uncle was a lifetime postal employee. Like George, he knew everybody in town; and like George, he knew them by their first name - but in most other ways George and my favorite uncle differed. George was Country. My uncle and I were city slickers. George talked country, chewed tobacco, and epitomized the Country Colonel, to me. I loved it. I loved living in a small country town as opposed to an industrialized, smoke-stack filled metropolis. I bragged to all my friends about the simple life I lived down here in the Florida Panhandle. When George left, I felt this to be the first trembles of an encroaching civilization. I asked my wife if she wanted to move. I felt that life in Franklin County without George, the country-talkin’, tobacco chewin’, knows-everybody-by-their-first-name, postmaster was hardly worth our efforts anymore.
We decided to stay, nevertheless, and next Percy Mock was gone and Bevin Putnal came a’ knocking at my single-wide, out in the boonies, country palace door. Bevin, the fine gentleman that he is, was running for the County Commission. “You vote for me,” he told me, “and I’ll do my best to get that dirt road out here in front of your place all paved - no more dust, flood-outs and busted rear axles for you.” Well, little did Bevin know but the last thing that I wanted out in front of my single-wide was a paved road. Man, I had been writing back home again to all of my friends about how I lived on a dirt road with a light pole right in my front yard. Sometimes late into the night when I couldn’t sleep or I had had too many beers, I’d go walking in my pajamas - with no shoes on and several of my cats trailing behind - rubbing my naked toes into that soft sand out on my own personal dirt, country road. That was really living, I thought.
When I opened my small business, I once more wrote to my friends telling them of my great opportunity. I would have the unique advantage of opening my business on the corner of two paved roads on a two lane highway going east and west. My friend, who owns a barroom in the metropolis back home, pinned my letter onto his bulletin board. “Rich is going to open his business on the corner of two paved roads,” he announced to all my old city slicker buddies. They thought that was the funniest thing that they had ever heard. Dirt roads and people who lived on them were a part of Fairy Tales and history books, nobody in my hometown of Lawrence, Mass. ever actually saw one.
The County paved my dirt road nonetheless.
I told my wife what a paved road would mean - explaining that paved roads spawn fire-hydrants, fancy houses, speeding automobiles, TAXES, and new fancy-livin’ neighbors, and possibly a shopping mall. We’ve got ‘em all now, exceptin’ the mall - but, I suppose that’s on the way. It makes me heartsick. Civilization, who needs it?
Now, the final shoe has been dropped; the die has been cast; we’ve forded the Rubicon; the boats have all been burned; the white man has arrived - they have a traffic light in Apalachicola; an actual, come to a complete stop - wait for the light to change colors, traffic light in Apalachicola. My god! A Complete Stop - red to green traffic signal light! You mean to tell me these new city slickers don’t know when to stop and when to go? This is even worse than in-and-out signs at the Eastpoint Post office. I actually saw some new guy coming in the out the other day. Can you believe it! This guy drove right in the out. I nearly died.
There was a time when we had people here in Franklin County who would have stood up and fought a red and green come to a complete stop, traffic light in Apalachicola. There is only one thing that it can be, as fur as I kin tell - YANKEES!