The lights that crisscross these streets in December, or the flags that line the highway of Bird City in July, they make me feel proud that I claim the two little towns. My house, planted basically dead center between, has the spider web of dusty trails that goes to either places. I hop into that little blue Honda Civic, pressing the clutch down with my boot as I glide down that center road that could lead to either town. Six miles later, I pause at the stop sign, glance up the hill to the left—Bird City—and the flat land to the right—Saint Francis—then take that right turn toward Saint Francis. I’ll hit both towns today, because I need a new Driver’s License and I need a tank of gas.
Saint Francis, bigger than Bird City, is at the bottom of the slope and I put it into neutral and coast toward the main part of town. This is the town where the County Fair takes place and a huge part of my growing up was that fair, working with the other 4-H kids to give the fair life and activity. Now, out of 4-H, I still help plan with my nieces and nephew.
Turning off the through road, I pass the high school where, a week ago, I watched my niece in a Dr. Sues play. The main street, in the few years I’ve been in the area, has changed a fair bit. There’s a new bank, there’s artwork, shining, spinning and new, and then I’m at the court house. Sign my name, sit for a picture, and gone again, driving by Fresh Seven coffee shop, new and my favorite place, and silently depressed at the doctor’s order of no coffee for two weeks. Normally I would swing in, step into the old courtyard style building, then I would climb into the small, silver, bullet trailer there and get a mocha. I’d inhale the smell of the coffee roasting in the little hut they have there. That part I still want to enjoy so roll my window down, tapping my brakes, and getting that faint smell.
I drive across the county, to Bird City, one of the few towns so small to still have a school and grocery store, and I swing into the gas station. Ruben, a kid I had a college class with, waves and I wave back, loving the sense of belonging I get in these two small towns. Climbing back in, I wait for a tractor and a combine rumble by, turn toward the sun, and press down on the clutch, shifting gears as I head toward work, leaving my home towns to the dust.