Let me boil this down for folks from the perspective of a person that was born and raised in Clarke but who also left for 25 years to serve our country.
When I was growing up, Clarke County was booooring. Couldn’t wait to leave. In fact, when I went to the recruiter I told him “If you can get me out of here in a month, I’m yours”. The recruiter asked if I was running from the law and I said, “No, I’m running form a small town”. I’m sure it’s no different for kids in Clarke County today. There’s a whole big world out there that isn’t boring.
It took a few years for me to realize that almost every kid in every town in America thinks their hometown is lame. I’ve met people from Alaska to Arkansas to New York and it was all the same story. All the action was happening somewhere else. I guess it’s all part of growing up.
But something strange happened over the years. The longer I was away, the less lame Clarke County seemed. Especially in light of what I had seen in my travels. True poverty. True lameness. People without even a pot to piss in. Literally. Crime in the bigger cities.
And as I became a parent and started watching my kids grow, I started thinking that the place I ran from really wasn’t that bad at all. I remember growing up being able to walk the streets and ride our bikes , even at night, and not having to worry about pervs or dope dealers or being shot. Didn’t even cross my mind. I remember starting kindergarten and graduating with the same people, most of whom I remain friends with to this day. We didn’t have the nicest school, but we didn’t know any better either. And it worked out just fine for most of us, even without the college programs and all the extras that are available now. We played sports and hung out with friends and goofed off like all kids do, and most of us turned out OK. All of that was a large part of my formative years and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
And sure the county has problems, to include the good ol’ boys and a host of other issues. But let me clue you in on something.
Every place has problems.
Even when I was stationed in Hawaii, a virtual paradise, they had their problems. Get outside the tourist faÃ§ade that everyone thinks of when they think of Hawaii, and you’ll find that among other things they have a huge meth problem, schools there are underfunded and almost Third World in nature. The list goes on and on. And kids there think it’s lame too. In other words, the palm trees are not always greener.
But all in all, I’ll say that a lot of folks don’t realize how good they have it in Clarke. It was nice to come home on leave and have people remember your name. Have people stop and talk to you. Intangibles like that are the exception, not the rule in this world.
And yes, it’d be nice to have a big, shining primo school and world class teachers, but the county just isn’t geared that way for the reasons that have been hashed over in this thread.
But in every situation in life, there’s a choice. You either do what you can to make the situation better, or you turn around and walk away.
For those of you that want WalMarts and KMarts and all that other stuff I ask you, “Really?” Have you not seen the goatrope that is Winchester on a Saturday morning? Can you imagine that traffic in Berryville? I mean all that stuff is just 20 minutes up the road. Isn’t nice after getting mixed up in that zoo to come back to someplace that’s peaceful?
Once you start down that slippery slope, all that you know will be gone forever.
I’ve seen first hand towns like Berryville in similar situations. Mt Home Idaho didn’t even have a Mickey D’s when I got there in the early 90’s. Now it has all the stuff people wish for and the place is a zoo. Biloxi Ms was a backwater burg that brought in casinos. Sure the schools are well funded now, but along with the casinos came crime and corruption. Sleepy Goldsboro NC brought in Lowes and Home Depot and every restaurant known to mankind.Aand now it’s chaos on the roads.
Be careful what you wish for. Especially when you have it 20 minutes up the road
Now, with that said, there certainly is some room for compromise IMO. Heck, I was saying 25 years ago that they needed a company like Micky D’s, someplace where kids could work and the county could levy taxes, but would not draw people from across the region to move here. There has been movement in that area, but it’s been in Waterloo instead of town.
A large number of people (myself included) drive right by town on the way home at night. As someone mentioned, it’d be nice to have a store to stop in on the way to Winchester to pick up certain items. A larger Food Lion or like store with a pharmacy would be nice. And I suspect that if that pharmacy had longer hours, the downtown merchants would likely expand their hours to compete. Or not. But it would be up to them.
As for funding the teachers, one option that I’ve seen at several locations is have the parents of kids that use the schools pay slightly more in taxes as long as their kids go there. Just an idea. People have no problem shipping their kids off the private schools and shelling out those bucks. But they don’t want ot pay more for public schools
Most importantly, get up and do something. I know everyone is busy nowadays, but voting doesn’t take that much effort. If you don’t like the people that are running things, vote them out or better yet, run yourself. Do something besides whine on a message board.
But please, whatever you do, THINK before you vote and before you lose something that a lot of you don’t realize you have.
“Sarge” is an anonymous reader who frequently posts comments on Clarke Daily News stories