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Hill Country Living

Past Decade’s Growth Is Nothing Compared To What’s Coming Now

I’m writing my column five days early this week because of the July Fourth holiday. When I learned that I needed my material for the newspaper turned in early this week, I had a quick panic because I had nothing to write about yet. But then I remembered that I never have anything to write about and that never seems to stop me, so no worries.

As I’ve mentioned before, I work on the square in Oxford a few days a week when I’m not at my store in Water Valley. I bartend and waitress at Saint Leo and Ajax Diner. Let me tell you all – almost every person I work with is wanting to move to Water Valley. Several have bought houses in the past month! This town is all anyone wants to talk to me about. I have had to tell some people that they can no longer ask me about Water Valley, that our friendship must grow beyond the Yalobusha housing market. 

Then we just stare at each other in silence because we no longer have a shared interest.

I know many of you were born and raised here and have seen new people and new places slowly pop up in your town within the past decade. Well, secure your hats, Water Vallians, because what has happened in the past 10 or so years is nothing compared to what is coming now. It’s like the house-buying zombie apocalypse. Except these zombies are nice and will shop at your stores. Also, on the whole, they are better looking than real zombies.

I hope that we will all be welcoming this time around and, in turn, I hope that the newcomers will appropriately consider the nature and history of the town that exists here already. I think these are helpful lessons we have learned over the past decade. Or at least I have.

I really think being a new person in town is a two-way street. I don’t think you should just walk in here and expect everything to cater to your needs without you putting in some work and I don’t think you should live here because of “low” housing prices and then live the rest of your life in Oxford. There are ways we can welcome new people in a way that is helpful to our town.

Encourage newcomers to subscribe to the paper. You really can’t get a feel for a town unless you know the news and the characters. And, I’m sorry, but anyone who says “Who’s Betty?” just needs to go back to Lafayette County and take all the lizards with them. Seriously. That is ridiculous.

Encourage newcomers to pay attention to the schools and approach their opinions about public education here with an understanding of how many of our kids live their lives. Lots of our kids are up against big odds that are beyond their control and yet they still prevail in an underfunded school system. That alone is a victory. 

We certainly need bigger and better victories in terms of our schools, and I know we will get them, but when an Oxford person whispers to me,”But how are the schools there?” something about that rubs me the wrong way even though it’s a fair question. We should use their unease to our advantage. Get them involved and active.

Teach newcomers about the history of our town. Recently, our new Alderperson, Cinnamon Foster, spent a week posting tons of pictures of Old Water Valley on her Facebook page. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and I loved reading people’s memories of how Water Valley used to be. Stuff like that should be required reading for anyone who lives here.

I also hope that newcomers open businesses here. The people I work with in Oxford are smart and skilled and have been in the food service industry for many years and, man, if any one of them opens something here then I know it will be good. Encourage new people to take a chance and live their dream out here. It took a long, long time before many locals walked into my first business and now my second business almost solely depends on the many wonderful fabric donations brought to me almost daily by born and raised Water Vallians. That is social progress and I’m proud of this town for it.

Finally, I hope everyone had a safe July Fourth holiday and did not get half their permed mullet burned off by a Roman Candle like my big brother did back in the 80s. Happy birthday, America!

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