Young Terrill (Mac) McLaren pulled his old truck to the side of the new interstate highway and looked over the dry dusty valley. There was a small town nestling beside a small stream in its center. He saw the exit ahead that he would take to wend his way down into the town. He was returning to his childhood home after an absence of nearly five years. He had mixed emotions about his return. When he had left he had no intention of ever returning except for a visit now and then with his parents. He had last been home almost four years ago. Since that time the old road had been replaced by this new interstate.
Prineville became even more forlorn when the traffic from the old highway began passing it by on the new road. Life and prosperity passed Prineville by at 70 miles per hour how on the interstate instead of slowly as it had in his youth when the road ran through the middle of town. In the distance Mac could barely see the band of trees at the edge of town. A small stream ran along the edge of town where the trees were. It separated the town from his parent's, now his property. He could see the roof of his house and some of the outbuildings from his vantage point.
The small Ozark Mountain town of Prineville was dying. Even during his last visit he had seen several boarded up businesses and empty houses. He expected it to be worse now. Prineville had been a small, sleepy little town for years. Even from its settling in 1836 Prineville had not been a large settlement. Its population had never exceeded 500. With the advent of the automobile and manufacturing plants in the larger nearby towns its population began declining.
Prineville was one more example of the automobile, large factories and mega malls killing smaller settlements. With the advent of the automobile the population became mobile. Naturally factories and businesses built in larger areas where the workers were and where road networks made transportation easier and cheaper. People in smaller towns went to the jobs and stores where they could purchase items they needed or wanted the cheapest. This happened to be in the larger towns. At first people drove from Prineville to the larger towns for work, then they began going for their shopping and entertainment. Goods and services were more plentiful and cheaper in the larger stores possible in the larger towns. Finally it was just easier to move away so families could live the good life in the larger towns. After all that was where they worked, shopped and played. Why live miles away from everything they did and needed?
The people who had been born, lived their life and planned to die in Prineville were of an earlier generation. Now the only people who lived there were those who truly loved the little town and it's (to some) boring slower pace of life. Of course some who still lived in the town had a business that forced them to remain. Many of those who still lived in town took off for the big city for entertainment, dining out or when they retired. There was a glint of light at the end of the tunnel however because the rapid growth in Northwest Arkansas was pushing people north into Missouri. As Wal-Mart and its associated business grew the population of Bentonville and surrounding area became larger. People were moving north looking for more space or cheaper land on which to build. Prineville was beginning to see a small amount of growth because of the exodus from Arkansas.
The lights and comforts, the excitement of the nearer 'big cities' drew many of Prineville's residents, its children, like moths to a flame. It was especially sad to see the young leave the fold, to leave home and never or rarely return. Many of the young people who grew up in or near these small southwest Missouri towns left the moment they graduated from high school. Some left for jobs, some for further education then better jobs. Many returned for the rare vacation, some even returned to visit family for the major holidays but many chose to leave forever hoping their family would come to them in their new homes so they did not ever have to return to dull old Prineville and the surrounding area.
Of course with the exodus of the young and the inevitable death of the older residents many homes were left vacant never to see the smiles, never to hear the happy screams and laughter of playing children again. It was sad to drive through town or the nearby countryside and see old buildings drooping in decay because their once proud owners had either died or moved off. Many absentee owners allowed once fertile highly productive ground to return to nature. Many times once green pastures were allowed to grow up in brush and second growth timber. Many places were actually sold for back taxes because the older owners could no longer pay and their selfish children only gave lip service to loving and caring for their parents or older relatives.
With sadness, perhaps even a touch of defeat in his heart Mac started his old truck once more and began driving down the hill toward his past and, perhaps a tolerable future. Mac tapped the accelerator and the old truck surged forward as if the small trailer he was pulling was not even there. He kept his speed down as his old F350 Super Crew 4X4 Dually came slowly into town. All his worldly goods were with him. He glanced in the mirror and thought it didn't look like much for a man nearly 26 years old.
For such an old vehicle the truck was still in nearly pristine shape. It had been the last vehicle its young owner's father had purchased and did not see much use before he retired. Mac had lovingly repaired its few problems when he was given the truck. He still enjoyed listening to its old but still powerful Diesel engine chuckle at idle or roar its defiance as he drove down the road. The commercial welding unit in the bed did little to lug down the engine. Even now when he was pulling his trailer he could not discern a lessening of acceleration from the powerful old truck.
Mac looked around curiously when he pulled up and stopped in front of The Mustang. The Mustang had been the old hang out for residents of the small town as long as he could remember. He sat and watched as the dust he stirred up from the unpaved parking lot blew past his truck and slowly dissipated. Ever since he had entered the area his head had been swiveling back and forth as he saw once again the hometown he had thought he would never return to live in. He felt nostalgia, sorrow and perhaps a little fear. He was scared what he had decided to do was beyond his ability to accomplish. If he failed he would lose it all. This was perhaps his last chance to find what he was searching for, what his heart yearned for. Unlike many young people he had not dreamed of higher education and a high powered job making a huge salary. He did not desire fame or notoriety or even fortune. Instead his dreams were simpler. He wanted a wonderful woman who supported him in every way. She had to be honest and sincere, uncomplicated and loving. He wanted a modest job working with machines and engines where he could make enough money to support his loving family.
Mac had been a very good student graduating in the top ten percent of his high school class. He could have attended almost any college he wished with his grades. He was offered a scholarship to University of Missouri, Rolla. He turned it down. His sister had gone to college and taken a degree in nursing. He had opted for a two year college degree with a major in Automotive and Diesel Engine Technology. He also took several welding courses so he could be certified as a welder. Mac had worked for an implement dealer until it had been sold. He had been the junior employee and was in the first group of people laid off when its operation had been consolidated with that of the purchasing business.
Mac was returning to his roots. Some would say he was trying to find himself. Others would say he was running from the modern world. For whatever reason he returned he hoped it would be forever. He had enough of the hustle and bustle of the city. He was tired of all the games men and especially women played to get one up on one another. Though he had departed this small town the moment he could he found living in the city was no better, just busier, noisier and more impersonal. In many aspects it was a worse existence than he had expected. He found women more high maintenance, more prone to tease and promise the moon then when they found out he could not provide expensive meals, shows and experiences they would dump him and scorn him. He had never known his neighbors in the city and when he tried to speak to them normally they grunted and walked on or worse, just ignored him.
Now Mac believed he had made many incorrect decisions earlier in his life. When their parents became too frail to live alone he and his sister had been too busy to care for them. They had placed them in a nursing home. Neither parent lasted long after that. Both had worked themselves so hard in their life making ends meet on their small farm that their bodies were worn out. Now Mac missed them terribly and resented the fact his sister did not seem to feel the same way. She seemed relieved they no longer had to even give lip service to caring for their parents.
.... There is more of this story ...