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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Small Town, Big Secrets

Being from Kansas, I have been through my fair share of small, back road towns. Driving through these towns is fascinating; the old shop signs, the fact that everyone knows each other, and the slow-paced nature of the townsfolk makes places like this a world of its own. If I ever were to make a pit-stop in one of these towns to fill up my gas tank or pick up a 7-11 Slurpee, I can't help but wonder if the townspeople recognize that I do not belong.

My grandmother grew up in the small town of Chillicothe, Missouri. She used to tell me stories about growing up, about how they could go to the movies AND get popcorn for less than a nickel. She also used to tell me about how when you live in a small town, the townspeople are your extended family. I am sure if my grandmother could talk to Stella Flanders in "The Reach" by Stephen King, they would share stories of how "you take care of your own" (King 398). Considering towns as small as Chillicothe or islands as small as Goat Island, you wonder how many secrets never leave the inner circle of the townspeople.

In "The Reach," Stella tells of many secrets that would cast Goat Island in a very negative light if word were to reach the mainland. For instance, the man that molested the 3 girls from the island was found dead the next day, presumed to have "fallen" from a cliff. Additionally, she hints at the fact that they killed a baby that was born with genetic defects, claiming a crib death. Lastly, Stella tells about how Missie Bowie, recently without a husband, will now be alone to care for her children and how the townspeople will be sure that she is taken care of. Ethical or not, these examples clearly show that when you live in a small town, you take care of each other, regardless of the right or wrong surrounding the event.

I have witnessed a strong correlation to this idea of vigilante justice shown in "The Reach" to a news story coming out of Shiner, Texas. A rancher sent his 5 year old daughter and her brother to feed the chickens, but the boy returned soon after to tell the rancher that a man had scooped up his sister and taken her to a run down shed on the property. The rancher ran out to the shed to find one of his laborers sexually assaulting his 5 year old daughter. The rancher beat the man to death to save his daughter. Lavaca County Sheriff's Department did not press charges against the rancher, per Texas State law allowing for the use of deadly force to prevent sexual assault. The rancher even called into the police to get an ambulance for the man, in an attempt to maybe save his life.

The article says that Shiner residents "were largely in support of the father, that the victim deserved it" (Nye). One resident even commented, "I agree with him (the rancher) totally. If it were me, I would have done worse" (Nye). Now, I can only assume from these direct quotes that had the rancher not called the police, and left the rapist's death a mystery, the Shiner residents would never have said a thing. But it certainly makes me wonder- what secrets do all the small towns hold that I have driven through? I don't think I will ever know, and truthfully, I don't think I want to know.

King, Stephen. "The Reach.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: The Penguin Group. 378-397. Print.

Nye, James. "Texas father who beat Jesus Flores for raping his -year-old daughter will not face charges ." . Mail Online, 03 09 2013. Web. 25 Sep 2013. <>.

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