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Jan 2003 / elsewhere :: email this story to a friend

Still on the Hill
By Debbie Irwin

High Ridge, Missouri. People, places, things. When you hear the name High Ridge, it makes you think of hills and trees, a gentle breeze. It sounds like a beautiful place, serene, tranquil, with scenic vistas in all directions. It sounds like a nice place to live, unless of course you are from St. Louis. Then what do you think of? Stereotypes of hillbillies, shotguns, trailer parks, and septic tanks? In some circles there is a certain stigma, fair or not, attached to the name.

What do I say when people ask me where I live? I say, pausing, with a mild level of uncomfortability, "I'm temporarily residing in well, uh, High Ridge...with my sister. And well, I'm a City girl really, and um, it's temporary and well, it has worked out for me, really."

I'm like the Green party candidate whose City residency was challenged in court when he filed to run for License Collector. The previous 10 months he lived in Germany, then in Webster Groves, staying temporarily with relatives. He claimed he was still a City resident because though he had not lived in the City for the last 18 months, he had only been temporarily residing outside the City limits — he was still legally a resident of St. Louis.

So that's my story too. It has been proven in court. I am only temporarily residing in Jefferson County, more specifically in High Ridge, Missouri. And what is it like? The stars are bright at night. I don't always lock my car and it doesn't matter. There are flickers and woodpeckers and owls in the trees on the hill behind the house. And yes, there are trailers and septic problems and lots of new subdivisions; uncontrolled growth, progress or sprawl depending on your perspective. And well, the drive isn't too bad, though the wear and tear on my car, plus extra gas money and a personal contribution to smog have taken their toll on my karmic debt.

But it is not bad, really. Things have worked out okay staying out here. I appreciate the City even more than before, though I wonder if I've grown soft out in the land of rolling ridges, winding roads, scenic vistas and yes, trailer parks, septic tanks and ugly cookie-cutter subdivisions. I wonder how long it will be before I fall in love with one of those little city bungalows with the ornamental brick and find myself with a mortgage note in my hand...I hope it happens soon.

Debbie Irwin, a city gal in exile, is the executive director of the Dutchtown South Community Corporation.

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