Plain Dealing: A State of Mind

By Debbie DeMoss Smith

The smell of pine, the high school perched authoritatively atop “school hill,” the rain-fed waters of the swimming lake, the wooded beauty of Dogwood Drive, or the leisurely patrol of the deputy’s car...all reflections of a small town that was, and continues distinctively to be, a slice of Americana. Plain Dealing, a state of place and mind.

Not that Plain Dealing was the only place I ever wanted to live. Like many small-town youths growing up in the fifties and sixties, I dreamed of venturing out into the world, living in grand cities where you could yell “taxi!” And the savvy cab driver would whisk you away to multi-ethnic restaurants. Yet now that many of those daydreams have crystallized into reality, what was once considered mundane fare in Plain Dealing, has reared its head with fresh appeal.

It’s usually twice a year I make my way up from New Orleans to the “hills where those North Louisiana Baptists live,” as described by my fellow-south Louisianians. It’s those hills, sweet with the smell of pine trees, that first signal me that I am back home again. Gone is the flat and swampy land, with its incessant blanket of heavy humidity. Before me, rolling hills of green, dotted with grazing cattle or fertile gardens.

But it’s the social “glasnost” that grabs you and won’t let go. This “openness of the people” is something new in the Soviet Union, but not in Plain Dealing. The friendly handwave offered in passing amazes my Yankee husband, who still ask, “why is that guy in that pickup waving at me?” But that’s just the point, if you’re in Plain Dealing, everyone else there figures he/she must know you. After all, what would a stranger be doing there, anyway?

There certainly were no strangers to run into atop “school hill.” Plain Dealing school handed out more than academic memories. Who can forget the sting of freshly-mown grass on your arms and legs as you sneaked a roll down the big terrace at recess (too bad if the principal caught you) or the smell of crisp fall nights as the Lions kicked off another football game against the Benton Tigers? Or the muscle and heat fatigue from marching up and down “school hill” during band practice? Or the seemingly endless row of school buses (there were 11) lined up neatly, ready to take school kids home?

I can’t forget. Just as I can’t forget the welcomed opening of Lake Plain Dealing. Fat, sandy beaches--a stationary raft beckoning “deep-water” swimmers--picnic tables ready for chips and sandwiches, amid rock music bellowing from the concession stand’s loudspeakers. And the crowds! Folks from all over (especially the GI’s from Barksdale) swarmed to the beach.

Just down the road, the memories continue with Dogwood Drive. Whether a scenic “Sunday ride” with the family during the Dogwood festival or a “scary” ride at night up and down the sinewy hills in a car stuffed with other teenagers. (Never mind the other use some teenagers found for the drive....).

But there was one car in town you’d never find on “thrill hill.” But the memories are there just the same. The slow patrol of the deputy’s car. Even today I wonder if he ever has to “floor” his accelerator in pursuit of some offender. There’s something reassuring, though now unfamiliar, in that unhurried watch of the town that’s alien to New Orleans policemen who report a homicide a day.

Years ago, Novelist Thomas Wolfe immortalized the now-familiar saying “You can’t go home again,” as he depicted a generation of aspiring young people leaving forever the small towns in search of their futures.

But today, if you ask one of those young people of yesterday if indeed that quote is true, you’ll be told: “Oh, yes, you can go home again, if home is Plain Dealing. For Plain Dealing is more than just a place, it’s a state of mind.”

With a background in news Deborah DeMoss Smith is an award-winning writer/producer of television documentaries, including a Cable Ace Award. Via her company Ravensview Productions, Inc. (in Native American lore
the raven brought light into the world), she also writes TV newsmagazine stories, videos and for print.

Growing up in the Deep South, she acquired a love for storytelling, along with a B.A. in English and a Master's in Special Education.

After living in north Louisiana, Colorado, upstate New York and New Orleans, she, her husband and their daughter moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1989.

A jazz afficionado, Deborah programs and hosts a weekly 4-hour jazz show on a local public radio station; she also emcees area jazz concerts and events.

Deborah lives with her husband and their two cats, Casablanca Orion and Stargazer, in Portland, Oregon.

Deborah is the author of the book
"Reflections of the Heart, What Our Animal Companions Tell Us"
which can be found on Amazon.

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