Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Adolescence/Teen Years (07/16/09)
TITLE: Thank God I'm a Country Girl!
By Gail Stoltzfoos
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Our afternoons were filled with adventures. My favorite was when we’d all bicycle to town. The two mile ride was simply delicious! The air was still cool enough to be refreshing. There were always ladies working in their gardens, who would wave cheerful hellos while their little ones raced the length of the yard in an effort to catch us. Passing cars would honk their horns in a friendly fashion. Neighbors would come out to watch us go by. It was a welcoming world that we simply took for granted.
As we neared the local airport, everyone would cross their fingers, hoping for some air traffic activity. It was time for a soda break anyway; so we’d flop beside the runway and attempt to will a plane to arrive in order to watch it land. The younger children would jump up and down with excitement if this happened, but we teens would remain nonchalant in order to appear “cool.” If nothing happened by the time we had finished our sodas, we’d eagerly jump back on our bikes and finish the last half mile into town.
Our first destination was always Kauffman’s Hardware. This two storied building held many wonders and delights. The little ones would scatter to seek out their favorite toys. “Were we ever that young?” we would say laughingly to one another, for we had outgrown toys “years ago!” The boys would head into the tool department, emulating their fathers’ fascination with all the gizmos and gadgets. We girls would run upstairs and hurry to the clothing department. For a local country store, Kauffman’s always had the most beautiful sweaters imaginable. We’d lovingly pass our hands over the softest and hurry to pick out a favorite to try on.
The most wonderful thing about the Kauffman Hardware store had to be its’ patiently tolerant staff. They knew for a fact that we were all ‘just looking’ and no purchase could be expected. Oh, we might get some sodas or candy, of course. But they knew better than to believe that we’d actually buy anything of value. And, knowing this, they never scolded us to “put that down” and never yelled “don’t touch the merchandise” like the city storekeepers would have done. They’d simply smile and ask how our parents were doing. These kind people allowed us to just be kids. God bless them!
Sometimes our entire visit would be spent inside that wondrous store. But, there were days when we’d ride around town a bit. There was always something happening at the community park and we’d often head that way. The younger kids were content to horse around at the playground; while we teenagers would long to be at the swimming pool. We’d stand outside the fence and try to spot overwrought mothers. Our goal every summer was to approach one of these women to offer our babysitting services. We knew that families paid next to nothing for this work. What they would do, however, was include you in their seasons’ pass to the pool. Ah, heaven! It was an enviable position to be inside the fence, tanning in the sun, while watching over little Johnny and Susie.
All too soon, it would be time to bike back home. The return trip was often a grueling test of your strength and endurance. The sun-baked macadam roads would be sticky and difficult to traverse. They really threw off some heat by late afternoon! You felt like you were riding through your mother’s oven. We were a mostly silent group as we struggled to complete the two mile ride home. But, our families always gave us a hero’s welcome when we rode in the driveway. Somehow, that made all the hard work worthwhile.
We never thought it anything special to take a trip into town. It was just one of many summertime activities that helped to pass the time. I feel blessed to have lived in an era when such a simple pleasure could be the highlight of this teen’s day. Thank God I’m a country girl!
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