a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Satisfied with the dust in my home

By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – It struck me yesterday while cleaning my old kitchen hutch that I had waited entirely too long to perform that task.

The date was 1997 on the yellowing newspapers that were used as shelving liner in the rustic wooden furniture. And then the date struck me that I had just surpassed the 25th anniversary of having moved into this century-old fixer-upper in Webster, a Mon Valley village, which has often been considered "the other side of the tracks" by snooty people.

I would have told someone he was crazy had he suggested to me in my teens that this Pennsylvania town would remain my home into my 50s. I had dreams then of someday living in a lofty New York art studio or maybe somewhere beside the water other than this town along the murky Monongahela River 30 miles south of Pittsburgh.

But this big house offered itself to me in 1987 for $4,000, a price that I couldn't resist, even though the floor was rotten below the bathroom commode and everything was covered with a decade 's worth of grimy dust.

The real lures were the facts that the house's faux oak graining on the woodwork hadn't ever been painted over, the two pocket doors on the first floor hadn't been removed and the two main ornate fireplaces still worked. There was something here worthy of preservation.

Over the years, though, a sense of community in this small town has thankfully survived, as well. Otherwise cranky people will offer smiles at the post office in perhaps unconscious efforts to keep peace and get along with everyone. Others who live here tend to hold their tempers when someone else runs a stop sign they are approaching rather than curse obscenities at the thoughtless driver.

And sure, most of us here have relatives, coworkers and met strangers who live elsewhere and make it obvious, almost immediately, they think they are better people for where and how they live. That would be living anywhere in the "Mon Valley," where some people are viewed as being no better than a river rat.

However, one thing I have learned in certainty from my travels is that people are people and the mix of good and bad among them seems to be pretty well balanced regardless of a zip code.

I know people from out of town who spend too much time in front of their computers drafting conspiracy theories to back up their kooky opinions. I sometimes get their emails.

And I also know people over the hills who, like the guy who lives across my street, will brush the snow off their neighbor's car on a freezing cold morning for no other reason than to be kind. Here is this tiny town neighbors still take time to pull off the road to return wind-tossed garbage cans to their owners or keep a watchful eye over others' property when a stranger loiters.

Its reasons like those that make me satisfied at having never left the dust that settles here. Well maybe it's the cheap taxes, too.

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