Sports Extra: Small town charm outweighs big city by wide margin

Sports Extra: Small town charm outweighs big city

By Eric Becker

 

About two weeks ago my wife and I, minus our two kids for a couple of days, took a journey through the back roads of west-central Illinois to the town of Keokuk, Iowa, right along the Mississippi River.

My wife’s family has some history in that town, and we were able to locate some of her deceased relatives at the local cemetery, as well as drive by her grandmother’s former dwelling on Tinea St.

The drive itself is one that I am always curious of because of the charm of driving through small town Americana.

While the shooting of the Dallas police officers had just taken place, there were no protests, no threats against the public. None of that big city hassle. Beardstown was the biggest town we passed on the way to Keokuk (its school looks phenomenal from a glance).

We headed out from my parents home in a northwest direction from Route 125 through Pleasant Plains, Philadelphia, Virginia, ending up in Beardstown. Crossed the Illinois River there and continued through the towns of Rushville, Brooklyn and Augusta before ending up in Carthage and Hamilton. Crossed the Mississippi River, and there is Keokuk.

Enjoyed some wonderful pork tenderloins at a restaurant called Dr. Getwell’s Bar and Grill, located downtown on one of the corners. Absolutely fabulous food.

After touring the town and a couple of parks, on Saturday morning we awoke to find the town’s school. Drove to the cemetery and later in the morning located my wife’s grandmother’s house (she remembered the screened off porch!).

We also frequented an antique store and then made our way back toward Illinois, ending up at the George M. Verity Riverboat Museum, located right on the Mississippi River.

It was quite a nice little tour of the ole’ barge. Once we crossed back into Illinois, we headed up Rte. 96 to Nauvoo. We stopped at the local Nauvoo Mill and Bakery for a bite of lunch around 2 p.m. It was quite crowded but it was worth the wait.

Returned home after that, stopping to see my departed grandmother’s grave site in rural Petersburg along with some other of my relatives. Made it back for cake and ice cream at my nephew’s 10th birthday party. Wonderful couple of days away from the kids, seeing sites I’d never seen before.

Speaking of birthdays, my younger brother Mark, turns 40 today (July 21).

Small towns are what make America great. I grew up wanting to live in a large city. My family and I live in a suburb of St. Louis which I feel is still too big of a town to live. But we get by pretty well.

Large cities are nice places to visit for a few days, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Too many distractions, crime, protesters for myself to truly enjoy that kind of experience.

Then come Friday nights in the fall, and the local football field lights brighten up the night sky. There’s no better feeling than knowing you’re going to see the local team play somewhere for nine weeks and maybe more if the team’s any good.

Last year we were fortunate to have four of the eight county teams secure playoff berths. Three hosted first-round playoff games. Two won first-round playoff games before bowing out to tough competition in the Champaign area.

Don’t forget the cross-country athletes, the golfers, soccer players and volleyball personnel. They’ll be ready to get back at it again, I’m sure. This year’s county volleyball tournament takes place in Bunker Hill on Oct. 8. The Carlinville boys soccer classic is Aug. 27 to Sept. 1

I don’t have the Carlinville schedules, but just by seeing other school schedules out there, it’s going to be another fun sports season in Macoupin County.

It all starts in mid-August with the local JFL football and junior high baseball teams getting going. It’ll end in late May with state track and field. In between, athletes making a boatload of memories for their hometown schools. Hometown proud. Americana. It’s a perfect combination.