I grew up in Cheyenne, WY. When I first moved to Oklahoma at the age of 18, I was struck immediately by how gregarious people seemed. Some of that might have been attributed to the shy nature of my mother, who isn’t one to willingly glad-hand any crowds. And so our family wasn’t thrown into many of those conventional social gauntlets you often have to learn to maneuver.
After moving to Oklahoma at the age 18, I ventured out one night for church visitation. An older gentlemen and I took the information card of someone who had previously visited and were going to make a house call. As we turned to go I asked him, “Aren’t we going to call them first?”
“Oh no. They’ll ask us not to come.”
Intrusion is a way of life in the south.
I met my wife while working in a church in Baton Rouge. The two of us landing in Shawnee suits us in that Oklahoma isn’t quite the south nor the west, but a strange hybrid of the two. If I were to wear a bolo tie to church in Wyoming, the only thought any one might have is how nice I looked. If I wore the same in Baton Rouge, it might stir up a quiet embarrassment. In Oklahoma, the reactions would be mixed.
Shawnee, OK is a county seat once considered a farming town. The two religious universities it hosts, one Southern Baptist, the other Catholic, now mostly define it to outsiders. And their presence creates an interesting mix of progressive thinking and small town religious hesitation. Not entirely a bad place to live if you think walking the narrow path means balancing your life between extremes. I think that is exactly what it means.
I am a husband, a father, a friend, an Episcopal minister, and an artist. I like rain and cloud cover, baseball, and the sound a banjo makes. I wish I could sing harmony better than I do, and I live under the suspicion that the better I get at hearing and singing harmonies, the more mature I am growing spiritually. That applies only to me, in my estimation. Your gage is surely something else entirely.
–Tim Sean Youmans