My Small Town: Recounting the Joys of Village Living

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather
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You know what song I think is great? “Small Town” by John Cougar Mellencamp.

I’ve always loved this song, even in 1985 when it came out and I was living in suburbia. I wasn’t “born in a small town” but “I’ll probably die in a small town.” And it’s a great town. Or a village to be more precise.

We’ve lived here 15 years now and it’s taken that long for me to really start feeling that it’s “my town.” This comes from shopping here, and shipping parcels from the post office, and doing workshops, and playing hockey, and being on committees, and helping out at special events and generally inflicting myself on the village as often as I possibly can.

Saturday was an awesome day for me in my small town. I took a CPR/AED workshop put on by the firefighters. I didn’t know what an AED was, so I looked it up on Wikipedia and it discovered that it is an “automated external defibrillator” and can be used when someone has a myocardial infarction … you know, a heart attack. When the instructor asked if anyone knew the correct term for a heart attack, well, let’s just say I looked like a genius. I used to watch the TV series, “ER” so I was familiar with the term. And I was also familiar with the use of a defibrillator when they jam those pads on a patient and yell “CLEAR!!!” and hit them with 50,000 Volts or whatever it is and the patient convulses back to life. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed to discover that the modern automated units are small, subtle, talk you through the process and use way less voltage. You still have to keep your hands off the person, but if you forget to remove your hands it sounds like the experience is more like touching an electric fence than a high voltage transmission line. Like all good country folk I am quite familiar with the jolt of an electric fence, even though I should never admit it publicly.

There were about 30 people in the class and I was pretty excited to discover that I knew the majority of them … they were all friends, business people, people from happy hockey, and half the staff of the grocery store. It was a fun morning and I was happy to take CPR again. I took it 30 years ago and as I recall it was pretty complicated … a lot of counting up ribs and stuff. Now it’s just start compressions, 100 a minute, 30 then 2 breaths. We also learned about how to handle choking which was good since I don’t think I’d ever learned the Heimlich maneuver.

Along with the instructor there were 5 or 6 volunteer firefighters there. They gave up their Saturday morning to help members of their community get up to speed on CPR. In a small town this is a good skill for everyone to have. We are 25 to 30 minutes away from the nearest ambulance … on a good day. Then you’ve got the drive back down to the hospital. As I learned the best place to have a heart attack is NOT in our rural village. Unless you’ve got someone around who can grab one of the AEDs located around the community and start CPR.

This is the trade off of living far from a big urban center, but you have this other great thing happening; people volunteering to make the community a better place. Our volunteer firefighters take hundreds of hours of training to get up to speed on all the equipment and first aid. Then they keep their skills up to date by training all year.

Then they work for a living, and respond to emergency calls in their spare time.

City fire fighters are extremely well paid in Canada. They are exposed to hazardous chemicals and dangerous conditions, so this compensation is warranted. And then there are the volunteer fighters in my community who do it for free. And yes, it’s mostly guys and guys like to drive around in big red trucks with flashing lights and use big hoses to blast fire with water. I get that.

But it is dangerous and I think there’s just way more to it. And I don’t envy anyone who responds to the carnage of a car wreck.

Nope, there’s something pretty awesome about volunteer fighters. Something way above and beyond driving shiny trucks in the parade. It’s just one of an infinite number of things that makes living in a small town such an amazing thing.

My friend Tim from the video store was there. He is also a volunteer firefighter so he showed me the trucks and different size hoses they use depending on the fire. And as expected, he was happy to make me the butt of some well-deserved razzing. Tim also took these photos. The Tamworth Volunteer Fire Department is really awesome.

After my awesome CPR training on Saturday, I’m cautioning anyone that comes to my place over the holidays and accidentally falls asleep on the couch after a big meal that there’s a pretty good chance they will wake up to find me doing chest compressions on them. Apparently I was giggling and talking at the back of the class when they were explaining exactly when you should start performing CPR.