Over my lifetime I have lived in a few different places. Usually it was only for a short period of time but at one point it was an extended period. As fate would have it I always made my way back around to Neosho and the Neosho area.
It all started with my birth in Sale Memorial Hospital. At that time my folks lived just outside of Neosho in the county but then when I was four years of age they purchased a house closer to town, only a mile outside of the city limits. When the time arrived for the required school attendance, I started my education at Field School. During those days Big Smith Manufacturing was still in operation just immediately across the street to the east of the elementary campus. I began my educational career under the tutelage of Mrs. Land and alongside Kathy Studdard, Larry Clark, Kathy Lentz, Randy Cope, and Jeff Wood just to name a few. Two weeks into my fifth grade year, at Intermediate Campus on North Wood Street, we moved to Maysville, Arkansas. That was a short lived stint of only nine months fueled by a life change for my dad who after a few months decided that the plan wasn’t going to work. Upon returning our family moved to Newtonia to live but for all practical purposes we were back in Neosho. My father’s business was in based in Neosho, the weekly shopping trips were to Neosho, and there were segments of the family on both sides that were in Neosho.
A time arrived that my dad determined that I was old enough to work during my summer vacation; I began spending every weekday in Neosho working with the family business. The day after my graduation from high school, I went to work for Southwestern Bell Telephone, you guessed it, in Neosho. Time and life washed over me like a flood. Property was purchased in Neosho; there was a marriage, additional jobs, property sold, property bought, and many changes but always a return to this area. At one point while living away from here, I made the statement that the best thing I could do would be to return to Neosho because I always did better here.
Through all of this transition over the years, I have found that here, in Neosho, in this community, the sensation is like the comfort of a warm blanket. Not everything has been easy here. There were successes, there were failures, there were times of extremely hard work, but through it all there was always a sense of belonging. That feeling of security was not based upon the presence of family or other traditional support. Those are important, but it is the community of Neosho and Newton County that provides that warm blanket feeling. I am not alone in this. My wife was not from this area and she has developed the same attachment. I am acquainted with other people, some native to the Neosho; some were transplants, but people who harbor the same emotional attachment.
This attachment is certainly not an exclusive for Neosho, but that is those other communities and other people’s thing. This is our thing and it is our warm blanket feeling. Sometimes the blanket needs to be laundered, mended and the wrinkles straightened out. Even during those times the warm blanket feeling continues to persist. Right now Neosho is in the mode of straightening out some of the wrinkles. A little laundering and mending may have taken place also, but the process is ongoing so that our warm blanket might, just might, appeal to others. If so, they will find it a good place to be and here in the mid-west everyone needs a warm blanket!
Paul Richardson is the public relations director and events coordinator for the city of Neosho. He also writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.