By JOSH GRASTON
They say you can never go home again, and in some ways I have found that to be true. Life takes you down some interesting roads, and for nearly 16 years I’ve lived in other states across the United States. Being an adult now with a family of my own, a 1-year old baby, a 12-year old stepdaughter and a beautiful wife, I was somewhat hesitant about returning to Powell County. However, as I drove down the Mountain Parkway last week it was like taking a stroll down to Memory Lane.
Memories flooded back in flashes; riding our bicycles down Main Street to the pharmacy to buy baseball cards (does anyone still actually collect those?), Saturday morning biscuits and gravy from Hardees, knocking golf balls at the driving range, eating Sue’s Hot Dogs.. the list could go on and on.
Before I knew it, I saw the sign for the Clay City exits and I was immediately struck by the fact that there were two exits. My heart fell a little when I saw Budget Video no longer existed, but I think we can blame that on Redbox and the internet. IGA was still there, albeit a little smaller than I remember. EZ-stop was packed, and just like in the past nobody seemed to know how to park. Most things that I remembered seemed to still be there, but most seemed to have been a little run down or had been repurposed. The Pool Hall I remembered learning to shoot at was now a pawn shop, the Clay City Times had moved from the place down by the river, but the Red River Museum seemed to be the bedrock upon which I could anchor my nostalgia.
While many things seemed to have changed, the one thing that seems to be the same are the people here. I am not naive to the fact that Powell County has its own share of problems, as does any place. That being said, by and large the people here are as I remember them: a kind, honest and hard-working simple kind of folk. It is still a place where people wave at you as they drive by or are willing to help someone broken down on the side of the road.
A gentleman at McKinney’s pointed out that my tire was low on air, a lady at the Dollar General stopped and chatted with my baby and a guy at EZ-Stop shared stories of his childhood while we waited for some food from the kitchen. Coming from a big city I had forgotten what it was like to really share a common ground with people, to really connect.
Looking back now on the memories I made as a child, they had little to do with the “things” Powell County had to offer, and more with its people. I remember one time a friend and I decided to try and raise $100 entirely from returnable Ale-8 bottles, I’m sure the guy at store remembers that day. I can clearly recall the bemused looks of people as we knocked on the doors asking if they needed any bottles returned. We’d offer to bring back 10 cents for each bottle, making our task oh so much more daunting. The sun was setting by the time we had finished, but we had ran our race and achieved our conquest. Our hours really were sun-up to streetlights.
I am looking forward to raising my family here and am excited about the memories my children will make. I hope when they grow up they have memories as fond as I have about weekends fishing at the Gorge, swimming and playing at Natural Bridge, the annual Corn Festival and eating cheap but delicious food at Bruen’s. But most of all I’m excited about raising them in a place where Southern Hospitality still exists.
So while maybe you can’t “come home again” and have everything be exactly as you remember, Powell County still seems like a mighty fine place to call home.