your hometown, too.”nNo, it’s not. That “narrow and goodnand decent” mist is lazy Hollywoodnwistfulness; I half expected RonaldnReagan and Donna Reed to strollndown Teachout’s street on the way tonPop’s Soda Shop for a double malted.nNeighborliness and a shared historicalnmemory are among the wonderful featuresnof small-town living, but Teachout’snSikeston is never individuated; wendo not learn how and why it is differentnfrom every other place on earth. (AsnI’m sure it is.)nOnce urbanized, Teachout is nonJohn Howard Payne (“An exile fromnhome, splendor dazzles in vain; O,ngive me my lowly thatched cottagenagain!”). He plays the role of thenwide-eyed rube, gushingly thankful tonthe Upper East Side dames who invitenhim to cocktail parhes: “I sometimesnfeel like an awe-struck visitor from anpoorer planet, looking at the shinynworld around me and scratching mynhead in hopeless confusion.” Nothingnin City Limits will disturb your averagenManhattan editor or Los Angelesnscreenwriter, who view that greatnflown-over vasHtude connecting CiHbanknwith Disney as one big blurrynsprawl of Wonder Bread-eaters, weathernmonologists, and hooded DavidnDuke fans.nTeachout takes it for granted thatngifted or ambitious youngsters mustnflee to the city: “It would be useless fornme to pretend that I will ever return tonmy hometown for good, or even fornvery long. I cannot pursue my hopesnand dreams there.” Sadly, he may benright. My technophile friends assurenme that computers and fax machinesnand Federal Express have made it easiernfor our rustic Teachouts to survive,neven thrive, while staying put. Butnthese distance-shrinking devices assumenthat the market for one’s work isnin faraway cities; they simply bringnNew York City closer to Sikeston, andnI’m not sure that’s a good thing. Howncan we encourage the development ofnan indigenous, proudly parochial Sikestonnculture? Not community players’nproductions of Fiddler on the Roofn(which Teachout humorously describes)nbut vital, piquant works by,nabout, and for Missourians?nDarned if I know. The obviousnpromoters of local culture, small-citynnewspapers, have been swallowed bynthe Gannett/Knight-Ridder octopus,nand the monster seems in no mood tondisgorge them. Colleges and universitiesnare usually alien nests of sheepskinnedntransients. Television stationsnare tiny links in huge chains. Thenglobal village has crushed the globe ofnvillages.nWhat would have become of TerrynTeachout had he stayed in Sikeston?nHe might have turned bitter, like othernsmall-town boys with thwarted artisticnambitions, for instance Edgar LeenMasters’ Archibald Higbie:nI loathed you, Spoon River. Intried to rise above you,nI was ashamed of you. Indespised younAs the place of my nativity.nThere was no culture, younknow, in Spoon River,nAnd I burned with shame andnheld my peace.nAnd what could I do, allncovered overnAnd weighted down withnwestern soil.nExcept aspire, and pray fornanothernBirth in the world, with all ofnSpoon RivernRooted out of my soul?nOr maybe not.nAccording to the dust jacket, Teachoutnis “currently at work on a biographynLIBERAL ARTSnA federal judge in California recentlynordered two crosses to be torn down innSan Diego and La Mesa and forbade thenlatter from displaying a cross on its policenuniforms and city vehicles. According tonthe San Diego Union last December,nthe American Civil Liberties Unionnfiled two of the three suits “to preservenreligious liberty in this county.” HowardnKreisner, an atheist and one of thenplaintiffs, reasoned that one of thencrosses in question, a prominent localnlandmark, “in a local park characterizesnSan Diego as Christian and announcesnthat Christianity is the official religionnof San Diego.” Officials from La Mesa,nCROSSFIREnnnof H.L. Mencken.” With a good collegenlibrary up the road in CapenGirardeau, and a round-trip ticket tonBaltimore in his pocket, Teachout couldnwrite that book in Sikeston. But henwon’t, and I- guess I don’t blame him.nHere’s why: when USA Today (itself anmalignant tumor) recently askednAmericans why they live where theynlive, 39 percent said “money,” 33npercent said “jobs,” and 12 percentnsaid “stay close to relatives.”nIs this the choice we face? Povertynand mom’s Christmas cookies in Sikestonnversus a satisfying, well-paying jobnin Babylon? The skilled man — thenfarmer, the carpenter, the cook — cannhave it both ways. But until we figurenout how to bring job, money, andnfamily into rough concordance, rathernthan conflict, many more Sikestonsnwill lose many more Terry Teachouts;neverybody’s loss is nobody’s gain.nOh, well: you gotta have faith. Sonhey all you hicks — you uprooted jocksnand eggheads and punks and wallflowersnand dopers and drifters — why notngo home? Sikeston and Fargo andnSeneca Falls need you. Your hometownsnare dying. Flowery idylls arenappreciated, but your presence there isneven better.nBill Kauffman, author of thennovel Every Man a King, lives innhis hometown of Batavia,nNew York.nSan Diego, and San Diego Countyncontended that the crosses are warnmemorials, not primarily Christiannsymbols. Judge Cordon Thompson Jr.ncalled this a “pretext” and was troublednby the “characterization of the MountnSoledad cross as a memorial at all,”nadding: “clearly, the Latin cross is not anbenign symbol, and the perception thatnit is favored could well deter nonadherentsnfrorn living in, visiting, ornserving as employees of the City of LanMesa.” The cases “would be entirelyndifferent,” said Judge Thompson, if thenparcels of land the crosses stand on weren”privately rather than publicly owned.”nMARCH 1992/39n