Darrell Huckaby - Are we getting too much of a good thing?

"They say this isn't a one-horse town, but try to find a decent hair jelly!"

Quick now. Who said that - and in what movie?

If you said the George Clooney character in "O' Brother Where Art Thou?" give yourself a gold star and go to the head of the class. You know your movies. And that isn't even my favorite line from that particular picture show. The one I like involves Dilbert and salvation but you'll have to rent the DVD to find out what it is. I can't repeat it in this forum.

But back to the original remark - the one about a "one-horse town." Did you ever wonder where that term came from? Didn't think so, but I'm going to tell you anyway.

According to the "Dictionary of American Idioms," which is an Internet source, the term one-horse town dates back to colonial days and has come to mean "a small town where nothing ever happens."

It's funny how our perspective changes with age and experience. There was a time in my life when being sentenced to live in a one-horse town would have been a fate worse than death. And I know what you are thinking, but you are wrong. The Porterdale of my youth was not a one-horse town - not according to the definition I just put forth. There was always something to do in Porterdale - especially for kids.

We had the gym and the swimming pool and two ball fields - not to mention the Yellow River. We also had a skating rink and wrestling and softball games and sometimes they showed movies in the school auditorium and there would be talent shows and barbecues and once in a great while the Goat Man would come through town. And when it was race weekend in Hampton we got to sit on the sidewalk and watch police chief Ray Potts give tickets to speeders passing through.

If it got too hot in the summer time, the Volunteer Fire Department would open up a hydrant for the kids to play in. Don't tell me there was nothing to do in Porterdale. We were not a one-horse town.

I did, however, live in Meigs for a couple of years. Twenty-two months to be exact, in 1979 and '80. There were some nice enough folks living in Meigs, but honesty compels me to admit that there wasn't a whole lot to do. I lived in a trailer - a single wide - in the middle of a pecan grove, and the most excitement I experienced in the 22 months I lived there was when they brought in the shaker machines to help harvest the pecans. When those nuts started falling on the aluminum roof of that trailer, it sounded like Armageddon.

The school where I taught hosted five football games every fall and about a dozen basketball games every winter. That was it as far as "something to do" went. There was, amazingly enough, a car dealership in town, along with a grocery store, a breakfast-biscuit-and-lunch-café and a convenience store out on the highway that offered Pac Man and Space Invaders.

I think the grocery store closed down when the owner was arrested and charged with filming dirty movies involving under-aged girls in the back room - so maybe there had been more going on than I realized. The point is, however, that Meigs might have been a one-horse town in the late 1970s - according to the definition we are using.

Actually, I drove through Meigs last summer, and from the looks of things, the one horse they did have might have died.

But I said all of that to say this. When I was younger I really coveted growth for our community. Most of us did. Y'all remember what it was like. We would get really excited when we heard that a new chain store or restaurant might be locating here. For years we thought that if we only had a Red Lobster we would never want for anything else. We would be complete, as a community. Throw in a few large department stores and a multiplex and we wouldn't have to go anywhere.

And how many years did we drive up I-20 toward Atlanta and laugh at the big open space on the south side of the highway and wonder if the mall would ever be built.

Well, it has. We got the growth we all coveted for so long. No one can ever accuse us of being a one-horse town again. And it's nice, in some ways, to have the conveniences that are a part of modern suburbia - but in other ways; well, living in a small and slow-paced community doesn't seem nearly as terrible a fate as it once did.

And I don't care what George Clooney says. Being able to by a decent hair jelly isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.