I was reminded by my friend Betty Hurst of a comment I made while being interviewed by WUNC radio after the publication of Sodom Laurel Album. The interviewer asked why I liked living in Madison County. I answered that Madison County has the highest percentage of eccentrics in the entire state and I found that likable, as well as, challenging and inspiring. Now, that’s an invented statistic on my part; I doubt anyone has ever taken an official "eccentricity" survey. But after forty years here, I remain confident in the accuracy of my statement.
Merriam-Webster gives similar, but subtly different definitions of eccentric: Tending to act in strange or unusual ways; deviating from an established or usual pattern or style; not following a circular path. Synonyms include: bizarre, curious, offbeat, quaint, remarkable, weird, or as Dellie might say, “quar.” They all fit when I think of our home.
Remarkably, this old-world place allows its residents the freedom, encouragement really, to be as odd and quirky as they need or want to be. There’s a history of that here, both the individualistic behavior and the community-wide acceptance of it. You're given the opportunity to be yourself, to find your niche, to enjoy your own amusements and passions. There's room to do what you have to do; room to make do. Most places aren’t like that; they’re filled with distractions and celebrate conformity and sameness. Lifestyle and behavior are more standardized and people seem to want those conventional parameters.
I was speaking with a new friend the other night about all the people who have moved to Madison over the last ten years, since the opening of I-26. It’s really quite amazing. But equally amazing is the number of people who have come and gone, scores of people over my time here. For them, this place was a brief stopping point in the span of their lives. For whatever reason it wasn’t for them. Maybe it’s the wildness, or the distances, the lack of work, or the politics. Thankfully, Madison County isn’t for everyone, or most people for that matter. I’m happy it's a place that’s too true, too off-the-beaten-path, and too eccentric to suit most people.