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Harris Blackwood: Hospitality isnt just a Southern virtue
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One of the recurring themes in “The Andy Griffith Show” is how Mayberry is a nice town populated by nice people.

In one episode, a businessman named Malcolm Tucker has his car break down outside of town on a Sunday morning. He finds the town deserted until church services are over.

He becomes frustrated that there is no mechanic available on a Sunday, aside from gas station attendant Gomer Pyle.

Tucker later finds himself charmed by the simple life and is seen quietly singing along as Andy and Barney do the same.

We, in the South, sometimes think we have a lock on niceness. Yes, I think our wonderful Southern towns are some of the most charming places on the planet. However, genuinely kind folks who offer heaping helpings of hospitality to strangers populate some of the small towns in other parts of our country.

I spent the last couple of weeks in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and the Canadian Rockies.

They may not use the sugary sweet drawl of our region, but the sentiment is there.

“Is everything tasting good to you?” a nice waitress asked in Pocatello, Idaho.  She didn’t call me “hon” or “sweetie,” but she took good care of us and I left her a nice tip.

When we crossed into Canada near Glacier National Park, we heard some interesting accents. Because of their common relationship to the United Kingdom, persons from New Zealand can get work permits in Canada. Many young people come and spend a summer at Waterton Lakes or Banff.

“How are ya?” said the nice young lady in a store that sells Christmas decorations. The accent was clearly not Canadian and didn’t sound British. She was a college student from Auckland.

She was equally curious about that strange accent of mine.

During a couple of days in Helena, Mont., it was my Southern twang that drew attention.

“Oh, you must be from the South,” said a nice lady of about 80 who was out for a stroll.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Well, first of all you called me ma’am.”

A rancher’s wife in Livingston, Mont., recognized me in a local grocery store. I found out that the Georgia Farm Bureau TV program is carried on RFD-TV and her husband watches it regularly.

“I’ve seen you talking about tractor safety in Georgia,” she said. I nearly fell over that someone knew me 1,976 miles from home.

By the way, if you’re ever in Turner Valley, Alberta, Canada, stop in at the Sheep River Library on Main Street. The librarian is Jan Burney and she has lots of information and a free map of Alberta. They have a sign out front welcoming visitors and we stopped in. They also have clean washrooms, which is Canadian-speak for restrooms.

Our great American West is an incredibly beautiful place. With temperatures of 80 in the valleys, there are still mountains kissed with snowcaps. I have fallen in love with the region and recommend it highly as a must-see place.

This region and the adjoining section of Canada are lightly populated with people, but genuine kindness and hospitality flows like the beautiful rivers that cascade through the gorgeous mountains.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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