Deerwood, Minnesota has a population of 524 or 580 people, depending on which end of town you come through to read the sign. Main Street has two churches, unless you count the Deerstand Bar which was a church but now has kegs where the alter used to be, two gas stations, a bank, the Deerwood Motel, True Value Hardware, and an American Legion with Friday fish fries and dances. There aren't any stop lights but on busy weekends one of the 1.5 city police officers sits in his car at the intersection by the train tracks and waves traffic along. City Hall doubles as the auditorium with rummage sales and wedding receptions on the weekends. At the hardware store the owners know everyone by name and they have a Rolodex with peoples names in it and little slips of paper whey they write down what you bought and bill you at the end of the month.
A town like Deerwood takes care of its own so when I called the hospital yesterday to ask how my neighbor, Vi, was doing the clerk at the front desk said, "Well, I know Vi and honey I will put you through to the nurses' station but they won't give you any information unless you're a relative. But didn't you say you were a cousin, not a neighbor?"
Vi's closest relative is an 80 year old step-daughter who lives 3 hours away so the nurse was probably happy to hear from more family and didn't push me for details. She was more than happy to give Vi's cousin from The Twin Cities an update on her condition: mild pneumonia but improving steadily.
The day before when I had stopped by Vi's to visit she didn't answer the door. Even at 95 years old she usually gets up every morning at 8:00 am, makes coffee and settles in to watch baseball so I knew something was wrong. When she finally let me in I could tell she wasn't doing well so I called for an ambulance and off she went to the hospital in the neighboring town.
Worried that she wouldn't get many visitors my dad called Northwoods, the florist 3 blocks from the hospital, and ordered flowers. The owner said, "Oh of course! We know Vi very well and we'll make sure to put together something she'll like and get it over there yet today."
The whole thing almost makes me want to live in a small town...but not quite.