Finer moments in the hometown

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown

But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth? He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again. — Thomas Wolfe, “You Can’t Go Home Again”

I couldn’t help but smile when I read a news report out of Hickory that a native of there got summoned to come home and be the new city manager.

Even Tom Wolfe knew how sweet it can be to come home.

To a standing ovation from a crowd in the Hickory City Hall council chambers, where I once put in some time news reporting, Warren Wood stood at the audience podium and proclaimed “that’s unique and it’s personal to me because I am from here and I want to see Hickory do well, I want to see its citizens do well,” according to the “Hickory Daily Record” newspaper, a former employer of mine.

So why do I get so excited when I hear some good news coming out of Elkin/Jonesville like, say, the Little Food Pantry boxes that went up in November courtesy of the non-profit Helping Hands Your Neighbors’ Pantry. I wrote a “Hometown” column then on some good people who wanted to do some good and had the determination to act.

While on a trip to town I just had to drive my Sunday luncheon companion by not just one but three of the Little Food pantries from which people with a need can take some food and other necessities, no questions asked.

“You don’t have to show me every one,” complained the companion, who is not from around here and did not feel the food boxes so “unique and … personal.”

But I had to show her even though I had no hand in the food pantries and knew only one participant in the project. Still I had to show her, because this is my hometown in one of its finer moments, and things like the food boxes make me proud to be back here and play some small role in our collective magnum opus.

I was taken aback one autumn Sunday morning when they announced that a former classmate and onetime fellow kids’ Sunday school class member was retiring as church choir director. In her place would be a young man fresh out of school who had never directed the choir before, even as a fill-in.

A few days later I turned at a rural intersection, and there behind the wheel at a stop sign was the young man who would lead us in song and worship.

I stopped in the road, waved, jumped out of my car while barefoot and got him to roll down his window. He thought I was nuts.

“Thanks for being willing to do that,” I said. Always encourage a young person when you have the chance.

The fine young man is not family. He’s not even a neighbor. I barely know him. But I’ve seen him grow up and from the bleachers have cheered on his youthful accomplishments. And again I’m just proud to see my hometown in one of its finer moments.

Warren Wood will begin his new job in Hickory on April 10. A city manager job is most tenuous. Like a baseball manager or a football head coach, you get hired to get fired.

Someone complains, a disgruntled employee has the ear of a town board member, or an election of change requires a cleaning of the house. Wood’s hometown dream can easily become a nightmare.

So can mine. But know that I too will always want to see the hometown folk “do well, I want to see its citizens do well.” And I’ll always be proud to be back in the hometown.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris

Back In The Hometown Harris

Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune

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