This past weekend the sun went to our heads and we had to get out. All day Saturday and part of Sunday we looked for any excuse to be outside in the light. Take a drive to..? Sure! Take the long way home from church and get ice cream to eat in the cemetary overlooking town? Ooh, let's! The wind was still cold, but the sunlight would not be denied.
Our Saturday wanderings took us to one of our favorite places--Augusta, Kentucky. To us Augusta is just about everything a small town should be, offering the genuine feel of going back in time just a bit. Old men sit on benches talking. There's not a chain outlet in sight. (Unless you count the IGA grocery store, and I don't think you do.) It has well defined boundaries, a couple of business-lined cross streets that serve as the commercial center of town, and a Kindergarten through 12-grade school pretty much in the center where most any child could walk to it. (A resident told us that the town could have sent the older kids off to bigger schools. They chose not to.)
There's a scenic riverside street lined with both grand detached homes and stately row houses built in the 1800's to stroll.
From its brick sidewalks you can watch the ferry cross back and forth from Ohio.
A couple of blocks away railroad tracks bisect town, with houses facing onto it as if it were a street. Maybe it was at one time.
Not quite as scenic as the riverside avenue. But quirky and very like real life.
That's another thing I like about Augusta: It's a very real town, with local restaurants and a couple of cozy shops on Main Street, but also an industrial business (probably providing more jobs) at the edge of town; lovingly preserved brick homes, but also trailers in odd places, like between buildings on main street and jutting into the lawn of one fine old house; a freshly re-purposed church, but also a boarded-up church one block away.
They won't put those juxtapositions in their visitor's brochure, but I accept them as necessary reality. In fact, they endear the town to me more. I've visited many charming places in which I couldn't imagine affording to live. Augusta isn't like that. It wears it's charm lightly, backed by the grit to stay a small, working town while the rest of America seems to be trying so hard to expand. They are prepared for visitors but aren't a tourist trap. It's pleasant but not pretentious. The whole package is comforting to a woman who started life in an old neighborhood near a railroad track herself.
I selfishly hope that Augusta remains happily and steadily in its eddy by the river, watching the barges go by, for as long as anything can last in this changing world. The knowledge that there are quiet places like this where past and present mingle honestly makes life a finer thing.