A recent study has reveled that people who live in small towns are happier than people who live in big cities. At first glance, this is a shocking revelation, especially if you’ve never lived in a small, rural area. I can imagine the scene now. A man and a woman are having breakfast together in their high-rise Atlanta condominium.
“Parker darling, it says here that people who live in rural areas are happier than those of us who live in the city. How could this ever be true, dear?”
“Oh, don’t believe everything you read in the paper, Madeline. No one lives in rural areas. It’s just cows and water towers. Could you please pass the avocado toast?”
You can see why people would think this way. Once I had a friend help me move away from the suburbs to a very small town. He looked around and asked me, “Where are you going to go out to eat?” He had a point. There wasn’t much, or so I thought. Eventually, I figured it out. And in so doing I learned one of the two major reasons why people in rural areas tend to be happier than city folks. The first reason is the restaurants.
Large cities are known for their fine restaurants with world famous chefs and customers who are even more famous. How could that not make you happy? But if all you ever do is fly over or drive through rural areas, you really miss the places that make them special. Places like the Bulloch House in Warm Springs. Before I got married, that restaurant was practically my kitchen. The waitresses called me names like, “shug” and “hun” and they never had to ask what I wanted to order. They just knew. Sure, you can order fried chicken at one of those swanky restaurants in Chicago but just know that it won’t really be fried chicken. It will never be fried chicken until the waitress bringing it to you calls you “hun.”
And then there’s the Nu-Way in Fort Valley, Georgia. I know people who will fight you over a cup of their ice. Just the ice. Never mind the hotdogs and fries. And it’s not like the ice has sugar on it or anything of that sort. It’s just ice. But it’s custom made for middle Georgia and a cold drink. I’m pretty sure you can’t get ice like that in one of those New York City restaurants where they give you plates that look more like modern art than dinner.
There are tons more. If you’re in Woodbury, Georgia, stop by the Blackbird Cafe. If you’re driving though Jackson, Georgia, get some barbecue at Fresh Air. It really doesn’t matter which one you go to. But if you do go, guess what you’ll find. A lot of happy, laughing people.
Eating is only one half of the reason why people in rural areas are so happy. The other reason is wrestling. No, I’m not talking about the kind they do in high school. No sir. I’m referring to that variety of wrestling that involves people being hit in the head with chairs.
In the late 90s I sat in the Georgia Dome and watched the great Bill Goldberg beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship with 75,000 of my closest friends. Goldberg was a hometown guy. He played for both the Georgia Bulldogs and the Atlanta Falcons. He was one of us. When he won the title, the place went nuts. Everyone was happy.
But not as happy as the crowd at the National Guard Armory in Thomaston, Georgia when Southside Trash and Silky Boom Boom wrestled. I was there for that one too. It was in a gym. There may have been a hundred or so of us in there. A mere fraction of the size of that crowd at the Georgia Dome. But we were all happy. Those wrestlers looked like they wanted to kill each other. It was splendid! We all left feeling great and went to a restaurant in downtown Thomaston for some pancakes and eggs. Guess who was eating one table over from us. Yep, Southside Trash and Silky Boom Boom. The same crowd that was trying to kill each other was now sharing a meal together.
That pretty much sums up life in a small town, particularly in the rural south. We don’t have it all together. We’re not perfect. But if you can mix in some wrestling and pancakes into our evening, we’ll be pretty happy.
I can imagine the scene now. Delbert and Luther are having coffee at the Blackbird Cafe in Woodbury while they discuss the day's news.
"Delbert, it says here that people who live in cities are happier than those of us in small towns."
"Don't believe everything you read, Luther. They don't even have a Nu-Way in the big cities. Now, could you please pass me another biscuit?"