By Coulter Fussell
People who aren’t from Water Valley might think that living in a small town isolated in Mississippi’s hill country would be dull. In fact, some people do think that and some of those people actually live here. Fair enough. We don’t all have the same Water Valley experience. I admit that long, slow days of country living happen here; many hours in these days when the clock seems to tick slower than normal, especially when you’re waiting for El Charrito to open and all of Main Street has smelled like fajitas since 9:30 a. m.
But in reality, the week on Main Street isn’t a flatline. It crescendos. Water Valley really blossoms on Wednesday. As a Main Street regular, this is the magic day for me. Wednesdays present the Water Valley Triple Threat: D&D opens up with their wings & rings, Dixie down at B.T.C. lays out her first stellar plate lunch of the week, and The North Mississippi Herald is delivered. If Monday and Tuesday were a bit sleepy, then Wednesday is a Sprint Mart coffee & biscuit. I’m almost glad that Crawdad Hole doesn’t open until Thursday because I’m not so sure I could handle anything else on Wednesday.
And if Main Street has a magic day then it most certainly has a magic hour: the 3 o’clock hour. Around 3:13 p.m. every week day the school buses from Davidson Elementary stop traffic downtown and unload the Main Street kids. These are the children of Main Street business owners. They spend two hours every afternoon at their parents’ and grandparents’ stores. Right when afternoon fatigue sets in and you begin eyeing the clock for closing time, these kids show up and change the tenor of the day.
A group of 5th & 6th grade boys congregate in Railroad Park, playing a two or three hour rowdy game of what I have concluded must be some homegrown hybrid between football and wrestling. While the boys yell and sweat and laugh and use that park like you’re supposed to use a park, Chloe Burrows and her cousin Brantley Simmons, granddaughter and great nephew at Doris’s Flowers, hang outside the flower shop directly across the street. Chloe sweeps the sidewalk out front and at some point visits Turnage’s or spends a while playing with the shop cat next door. Two doors down Annaliese Coughlin runs around the B.T.C. Grocery entertaining costumers’ children, stirs batter with Cora Ray, or sits in the front window quietly working on a drawing beside her momma who checks out groceries.
A block away Sydney Snyder, daughter of B. Grans Designs, waits behind the register while her momma works in the back. “I like to come to work because it lets me spend a lot more time with my mom,” Sydney says, adding with a smile,”And I get to go down to Main Attraction for a drink and a bag of chips!”
These kids haven’t forgotten what Main Street is for. Probably because they are just now discovering it for themselves. Main Street is a place for commerce, entertainment and socializing. Not only do these kids and teenagers bring life to Main Street every afternoon with their social store-hopping but they BUY THINGS. Cookies, drinks, chips, ice cream…I wonder how many of the Main Street business transactions between 3 and 5 p.m. everyday are initiated by minors. A Main Street can’t die when there is always another generation waiting in the wings, trained to task; encouraged by, involved in, and proud of the work they’ve grown up watching in their town. We need to make sure Main Street stays a welcoming, multi-generational place. Benches for the kids to sit on, shade for them in the summertime, crosswalks so they can safely get back to their pick-up football game after stopping to buy ice cream. Turnage Drugstore hasn’t lasted 105 years, through Water Valley’s thick and thin, because they refused to cater to teenagers.
When you involve the children then the beat goes on.