10 years later, we're sold

Friday, June 18, 2004

In just a few days, Marge and I will mark our first decade as Cape Girardeau residents. This seems like a good time to say how much we appreciate our adopted city and all the fine folks who represent it so well.

My wife and I are both from rural towns. Over the nearly 40 years we've been married, we've lived in Kansas City, Dallas, New York and Moscow -- the one in Idaho. We've also raised two sons in Nevada, Independence, Maryville and Blue Springs, all in Missouri, and Topeka, Kan., before landing in Cape Girardeau.

So we have some experience judging the qualities of a community.

My first visit to Cape in early 1994 was not the city's best sales effort. The day I arrived the city was coping with a big snowfall. City crews had plowed traffic lanes on major streets, leaving mounds of snow in the middle. The sky was gray, the weather was dank and the snow was rapidly turning charcoal.

I called my wife in Topeka and told her the folks at the newspaper were nice, but I didn't know if we could stand Cape Girardeau.

Keep in mind I grew up less than two hours away from Cape. But the "big town" we went to for special shopping and medical care was Poplar Bluff. My only visits to Cape were to see Eleanor Roosevelt at a teachers convention and to take the ACT test at Academic Hall. I didn't even know the town had a Wimpy's.

After we moved to Cape, our hearts were quickly won over. The town, it turned out, was not gray and dismal. It had character and beauty and the comfort of a well-worn pair of shoes.

And the people: How can anyone sum up 10 years worth of friends and neighbors?

And relatives. Little did I know I was related to just about everyone. Honest to goodness, when I told Bekki Cook we were fifth cousins, I thought she was going to faint. Almost anyone named Lewis or McClard probably shares someone in my family tree.

There have been several recent examples of why we like Cape Girardeau so much, and it has to do with how people treat each other here. Earlier this year we bought two redbud trees for our yard. One thrived, but the other one withered. No problem. The garden store gladly replaced the tree and offered to check on it from time to time. The fancy-dancy motor went out on the high-tech bird feeder that flings squirrels off the perch. No problem. The store owner made arrangements for a replacement and jury-rigged a temporary perch for the birds. I couldn't program the garage-door opener in my new car. No problem. A friendly fellow at one of our garage-door companies took care of it and just smiled when I asked how much I owed him.

I'd like to be able to say Cape Girardeau is the kind of town where no one locks the front door. It isn't. We are just as concerned about our personal safety as anyone. But we don't live in constant fear of our neighbors. We are comfortable taking walks on city streets. We've even forgotten to lock a door at night on occasion and got up the next morning no worse for wear.

I wish I could list all the people who have been so nice to us over the past 10 years. Not only is there not enough space, but I would inadvertently leave someone out. Just let me say that we truly appreciate the way we've been taken in.

By the way, today is our 39th wedding anniversary. If you see Marge, tell her how much you admire her for putting up with me for so long. She deserves it.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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