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Hill Country Living

Well, the flu has invaded my house like a bat out of Hades and if there is anything worse than working from home with your sick kid while you are also sick then, just for the sake of perspective, I’d like to know what that thing is. And don’t say death because this is worse.

Speaking of death, a huge murder case back in my home state of Georgia has been solved! I know this is a random segment, but I’m delirious with flu and this case is a really big deal back home. Beloved high school teacher and Sweet Potato Beauty Queen Tara Grinstead went missing 11 years ago from the middle-Georgia town of Oscilla and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. 

I remember when it happened. The only thing left behind was a latex glove in her driveway and red clay on her car tires. Her case file is the largest in the history of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. 

Recently, some random film student from Atlanta decided to do a true-crime podcast. He picked the case of Tara Grinstead only because his grandmother lives in Oscilla. All of us true crime fans laughed that this amateur guy picked this case, of all cases. 

It would be like if I decided I was going to go out with my tape recorder and finally figure out who shot JFK, once and for all! Just impossible and laughable. And the podcast literally starts with this young kid just calling up Grandmaw down in Oscilla and asking her what she knows about the Tara case. 

Yet somehow, the podcast takes off like wildfire, gains a million or more listeners, becomes national news, and it eventually solves the case! 

The reason I bring this up is because the town of Oscilla, as it is depicted through the podcast at least, really reminds me of Water Valley. There’s the main local newspaper man, the lady who works the desk at the newspaper, the mayor, the police chief, the best friend, the local bar, the cops (who are suspects,) the local lunch spot, the local grumpy internet troll, the high school football players, the prayers before official public meetings…all in the setting of this small rural town about the size of ours. 

And I think that millions of people listened to this podcast not so much because a woman disappeared (although it really is a mysterious case with many red herrings) but because they are somehow fascinated with small town life. 

Now, I’m not saying anyone here needs to go murder anyone for the sake of publicity but I do often wonder what it is that people find so simultaneously intriguing yet repellent about small town life. They are fascinated by our lives in these little places, yet feel free to still openly mock small towns and are ultimately pretty reluctant to move here. I don’t know why there’s that dichotomy. Maybe it’s the murders.

One of the things that the podcast did was create an atmosphere that got the local people in the town of Oscilla finally comfortable enough to openly talk about the murder. This eventually leads to someone coming forward. So, really, the townspeople solved the case themselves by no longer being hushed about the crime. A veil of silence had been lifted.

I’ve seen Water Vallians become more open to discussion in the 13 years I’ve lived here. People seem to feel freer to voice opinions and thoughts. And even when it’s not about murder or trailer parks or murdering someone over their opinions about trailer parks, it’s still a good thing. 

So, if you are sick in bed I highly recommend listening to the podcast “Up and Vanished.” I also highly recommend getting the flu shot.

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