Reporting from small-town America

Published 6:25 pm Friday, April 15, 2011

One of my favorite pastimes while on the road is reading local newspapers, particularly weeklies, those personal community publications, informational gems of what remains of print journalism today.

These local small-town weeklies give us short glimpses of community life, small treasured tidbits of information that only on these pages will you find such news, similar as in Bainbridge and Decatur County with The Post-Searchlight, reflecting little differences than communities of comparable size and make-up.

We vacationed a few days this week in Cedar Key, a 700-population seaside community due west of Chiefland and Cross City in Levy County, Florida.

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We have visited there several times, and find the community and atmosphere delightful.

Buying community newspapers along the way, from excerpts of this week’s and last week’s publications, here are some examples of what makes us what we are, where community pride and boosterism remains alive and well.

In Cedar Key, for example, which last week concluded its annual arts festival, Thelma McCain was awarded a special plaque for her work for the past 30 years, serving crab cakes in the city park.

The Cedar Key Beacon, “Gem of the Nature Coast,” also reported formation of a new glee club, with enough members to carry on their task, so new interested members were not invited to join. “But you are welcome to listen.”

One of the newspapers had a “Gourmet Dining Guide” advertising section. The first ad listed was for the Burger Spot Drive-Thru.

A sports headline in the Chiefland Citizen, proclaimed “Bronson Battles Chiefland Close.” The score was 10-2.

Weekly newspapers contain educational articles on how to do things. The Levy County Journal this week advises readers on the proper method to setup and use a rain barrel system.

Gardening advice. How do you really appreciate the tomato? Raise it yourself.

The Chiefland City Council at its monthly meeting last week, voted to purchase from the school 4-H program the lowest weight hog in competition. It didn’t say what they planned to do with it. Perhaps we could do this in Bainbridge. When the city council goes on their annual retreat, they could take along a 4-H butchered hog and have plenty to eat for lunch and dinner. Forgo expense accounts.

The AMVETS Post 88 in Chiefland is promoting the 35th Annual Wild Hog Canoe and Kayak Race later this month. Perhaps this is an exciting new event we could add to our Rivertown Days.

Need to get married, and can’t find a preacher? Call The Island Marrying Lady, Bettyrose Cooke, in Cedar Key at (352) 949-5700.

Chiefland Police Chief James Harris reported to City Council that the Adamsville Cemetery Committee gave the city permission to burn their church.

The Dixie County Advocate, “Published Without Fail Since July 1, 1921,” has on its masthead the slogan, “Home of the Worlds Only Four-Headed Swamp Cabbage.”

In its page that lists last week’s criminal activity in Levy County, the newspaper publishes five pictures of folks who have skipped their court dates. The line-up is tagged “Levy’s Most Wanted,” complete with photos and listings of their indiscretions against good citizenship. It was announced this week that Kimberly L. Wirth, 27, of Old Town, has been added to the newspaper’s “most wanted” list for failure to appear, petit larceny and resisting, bond at $2,000.

Tonight, if you have time to get there, at Manatee Springs State Park, there’s a live concert scheduled featuring “down home and gospel music.” The concert is free, but it costs 6 bucks for park admission.

There’s a house listed for sale in the classifieds in Cedar Key, which advertises a “hot tub on a paved street.”

In the Taco Times, “Serving the Tree Capital of the South Since 1961,” (yes, that’s the name of the newspaper), Sammy Hugger of Perry, according to his award, is now a designated Master Logger. Which prompts the question, does Sammy hug the trees he logs or does he log the trees he hugs?

Feeling sluggish?

The Southeast Clinical Research group in Chiefland is looking for volunteers to participate in an Opiod-Induced Constipation Research Study. “Don’t let the pain bring your life to a standstill,” it advertises.

It was reported in the Dixie County Times, “Where Time, Tradition and Trust, Go Hand In Hand,” that The Red Hat Chicks of Old Town enjoyed an outing at the ABC Pizza in Chiefland, when bad weather disrupted their plans for a picnic at Steinhatchee Falls.

Lest we forget. On its front page this week, The Dixie County Times has a color photo of Robert Blumenberg, pictured when he was a JROTC student in uniform while at Dixie County High School. The newspaper reported that Sgt. Blumenberg today is recovering from multiple surgeries from serious wounds he sustained while serving his country in Afghanistan. Sgt. Blumenberg remains in ICU at the naval military hospital in Bethesda, Md., where surgeons removed his lower left leg. He continues to undergo surgery on serious wounds to his right arm where much bone and skin were lost. He also continues on kidney dialysis.

For service, duty and devotion to his country, Sgt. Robert Blumenberg has been awarded a Presidential military decoration—the Purple Heart. For all his pain, suffering and surgeries, his mother reports to the community where he was raised, that her son is in good spirits.

Yes, small-town America has its fun community events and festivals, its turkey shoots, fishing tournaments, pizza parties, parades down main streets, citizen awards for doing community service, book readings at the library, bingo nights, crab cakes in the park, charity bake-sale fund-raisers and hog races.

And yes, we have our tough times too.

From this we may deduce, that all this political conservative gas-bag ranting about taking America back is a huge stack of rotten baloney. Our America has been here all along. Just pick up any small town newspaper, and there you will find its valiant beating heart.

Jim Smith is a former editor of The Post-Searchlight. Send comments to his email at:, or if you must rant, his cell is 254-2753.