Sounds of home become sweet music to my ears

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 23, 2005

What do you think is going on out there?" I leaned over and asked the lady sitting next to me in a Chicago hotel's conference room.

Horns blared incessantly, sirens screeched and emergency vehicles rolled by far below on the streets of the Windy City.

"Was there sirens? I didn't notice," the lady replied oh-so casually with an unconcerned look.

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She didn't notice? To me the cacophony of chaos sounded like big-budget action movie with the surround sound turned up about 25 levels too high. Spending last week in the hustle and bustle of the massive metropolitan city left me with a restored appreciation of home here in the Tri-State.

Ah, how I missed the sounds of small-town America - the sounds of silence and all the little things we take for granted.

Never did Joe Neighbor's roaring lawn mower sound so good. The kid next door's bouncing basketball might as well have been a Beethoven symphony. The chirp, chirp, chirp of crickets was as soothing as rain on spring Sunday morning.

As a life-long resident of Appalachia, I have never realized how much I equate sounds with our home. And I am sure I am not alone. Visits to sprawling urban cities such as New York City and Chicago highlight all the things we have going for us here.

So many people point out all that is wrong with our home, all the while they are oblivious to all that is right.

When was the last time it took you a half hour to drive two blocks? How many times have you had to make reservations five hours before dinner to get a table? How often have you made the wrong turn into a neighborhood and ended up fearing for your life?

The answer is probably not too often. It is such a blessing to have access to three separate states, three separate markets, all within a 25-minute drive. And, while crime has increased, most people can feel comfortable walking down the street at night.

But it is not like we are in the middle of Antarctica. In less than two hours, Tri-State residents can be in the major markets of Cincinnati, Charleston, W.Va., or Lexington, Ky. It may take more than two hours to drive across a city like Chicago.

One the flip side, the Tri-State offers a closeness to nature that is vital to our quality of life and has value that is almost immeasurable. Residents have lakes, trails, rivers, camp sites and more all just a hop, skip and a jump away.

So before you start thinking about what we don't have, remember what we do.

Now, when I sit on my front porch and hear the birds' whistle or an occasional dog barking, I try to remember the ruckus of Chicago.

Man, those hometown sounds and hometown silence are like sweet music to my ears.

Michael Caldwell is managing editor at The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at