Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Death in the Country


A Death in the Country


Kenny A. Chaffin

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Kenny A. Chaffin

            America has been eviscerated and no one noticed. Our small towns are dead, or dying. As I look around what was once the vibrant town square of my home town there is nothing, the shops are boarded up or have ratty looking second-hand shops. There are nasty looking, too-steep wooden ramps mounted on the four or six steps (depending on which side of the square you are on) leading up to the sidewalks in front of the dirty windows, the boarded up shops and the dregs of those few souls still trying to somehow make a go of it with an indoor garage sale. Only two legitimate businesses are there, The Madill Record and the bank – now renamed but  in the same place, with the same ‘drive through building’ banking where I had my first checking account, my first car loan from the then First National Bank of Madill.
            The square was once a vibrant center of commerce, civilization and communion. There was the TG&Y 5-cent store, The Corner Barber Shop with its spinning red, white and blue barber pole, the Dry Goods store, The Madill Flower Shop, Parrish Plumbing, the Art and Nick-Nack shop, Rexall Drug Store and another dozen smaller shops selling everything from garden seeds and gardening trinkets to a watch shop. It’s all gone, all boarded up, all broken windows and falling down facades. And we wonder why angry displaced troubled adolescents shoot up our schools, our theaters and each other.
            Our stores have been replaced by Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Safeway, Kroger and Amazon. We are homogenized and categorized and targeted and sold by the daily assault of media that tells us what we need to know, who we are and what to pick up from the grocery store. We no longer know the clerk behind the scanner which tallies and totals and assigns and tracks all your purchases even though that clerk may be the single mother that lives next door with her parents because we no longer talk to our neighbors and that clerk has been instructed by corporate training to never get personal with the customers and if she does she will lose her job, her way to feed her son and her American Dream of finishing night school, getting a degree in nursing from the community college because there are a thousand others waiting behind her to take that job.
            The daily news is full of doom and gloom, there is no hope, unemployment is up, earnings are down, the stock market tanked and homes are being repossessed. Oh and the CEO of Leman Brothers got a 5.6 billion dollar incentive bonus. Good news for him.
            Everything we see on TV, everything we hear on Radio is targeted to tell us who we are, what we should do, what products we should buy and how we should feel about Uzbekistan. Oh and let’s throw in a little high-calorie “Dancing with the Stars” or “Meth Dealing for Christ.”
            We no longer have time to discuss the weather, politics or new products with the Dry Goods seller or the neighbors we meet in the store, because there is no store, and we don’t talk. We don’t know what others think or feel, we don’t share our day-to-day trials and tribulations with our neighbors or friends we’re too busy getting to work or dropping the kid off for music lessons or hockey or football or picking them up and grabbing dinner from McDonalds so we can get home in time to watch “Lost.”
            WAKE UP PEOPLE!  We are all ‘lost.’ We’ve lost our way, we’ve become sheep, herded and guided and fleeced. No one knows who they are, only who they are told to be and when someone breaks out of the trance it is all too often a Nathan Dunlap or a Adam Lanza or a James Holmes. It’s 1984. We’ve forgotten how to live, how to communicate, how to support one another. We are dying from the inside out. Just look at our small towns.


About the Author

Kenny A. Chaffin writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction and has published poems and fiction in Vision Magazine, The Bay Review, Caney River Reader, WritersHood, Star*Line, MiPo, Melange and Ad Astra and has published nonfiction in The Writer, The Electron, Writers Journal and Today’s Family. He grew up in southern Oklahoma and now lives in Denver, CO where he works hard to make enough of a living to support two cats, numerous wild birds and a bevy of squirrels. His poetry collections No Longer Dressed in Black, The Poet of Utah Park, The Joy of Science, A Fleeting Existence, a collection of science essays How do we Know, and a memoir of growing up on an Oklahoma farm - Growing Up Stories are all available at He may be contacted through his website at