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Editor’s Note, July 2016: The Beauty of a Small Town

The first time I took my husband to the small town where I grew up, I drove him past the picturesque buildings, pointing out the library where I ruled reading tournaments and the Rexall drugstore on Main Street that made old-fashioned chocolate milkshakes. Then I rolled down my window and yelled in an exaggerated drawl to a woman jogging past, “Woo, girl, lookin’ good!”

My husband was shocked. “Do you know her?” he asked, aghast. Of course, I replied—she was my oldest friend. He came of age in a city, so this whole interaction was outside the norm. I, on the other hand, would have been surprised had I not seen someone I knew well enough to tease along the route.

I was reminded of that episode recently during a visit to Franklin, one of the places profiled this month in our “Small Towns” package. A young man spotted a friend sitting at a stoplight near the courthouse square, and he ran out into the street for a quick hello and a fist bump before the light turned green. His grin was infectious. There are some things I don’t miss about living in a small town. (I once inadvertently told a friend that his mother was seriously sick before he had been informed—because my grandmother had heard it at the grocery store. Cringe.) But the casual intimacy of seeing friendly faces around every corner? That, I miss.

After college, I moved away to a city whose sprawl overtook nearby small towns like kudzu. Here, on the other hand, small towns flourish close enough that you can drive in to Indianapolis for work or dinner, all while maintaining their autonomy and singular charms. Places with no parking meters (or in some cases, like Franklin’s Court Street Cafe, no cell service). Where ice cream stands and community newspapers thrive alongside new breweries and coworking spaces. And more likely than not, there will be someone to fist-bump at the stoplight.

A native of Inman, South Carolina, Amanda Heckert graduated from the Honors College at the University of South Carolina. Heckert joined Indianapolis Monthly in February 2012 and enjoys getting to know the Circle City with her husband, writer Justin Heckert, and their dog, Cooper.