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City Slickers Change the Face of Rural Communities

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JOHNSTON COUNTY — City life has a lot of amenities to offer, but there are also plenty of drawbacks. That is why the quiet country life is still a powerful draw to people who are tired of the rat race. But city slickers are also changing the face of rural communities.

McGee's Crossroads is one of those places that used to be away from everything, and still is in some ways.

"We're what they call in a 'dead zone.' We're seven miles from either rescue squad," says native Mike Gregory.

But everything is getting closer to this Johnston County dead zone. New families, new subdivisions and a new school for the new kids. Business is booming.

On weekends, the flea market is McGee's Crossroads biggest attraction.

Native McGee'ans like Gregory admit growth is good for business and especially good for farm families with a lot of land.

"You know, used to be the land wasn't worth a whole lot. Now it's worth a lot. We're hoping to hang on to it a little while and then see if the price don't go up a little bit," he says.

Brenda and Dennis Ledford found their green acres.

"We moved over from the Smithfield area about 2 1/2 years ago. We found a few acres with a pond in the backyard," says Brenda. "You can be in a city, do anything you want to do in 30 to 45 minutes."

As good as everything is, there is a downside to the crossroads now being in the middle of somewhere.

"It's not like it used to be. I could be in Clayton in 15, 20 minutes a couple years ago and now it's taking 30 minutes," says Dennis.

"We're afraid that it's going to have a boom like 42 and 40 did," says Brenda.

Seven miles north, the Cleveland Community stands like a noisy beacon of all that McGee's does not want to be.

"It's starting to boom and I'm afraid it's starting to come further this way," says Gregory.

Of course, Gregory and others say a new place to eat and another grocery store would be nice.

"I think I've heard say there may be a grocery store going up there at 40 and 210," he says.

They came for the country charm, but sometimes newcomers bring their big city ways.

"Their quick attitudes -- they don't have any patience. They'll go to honking at you just making all kinds of racket," says Gregory.

If things change too much, there is always the next town down the road.

"I'll move further away if I have to," says Dennis Ledford. "We moved out here to get away from the congestion, but it's coming this way."

Many people move to communities like McGee's Crossroads not just to escape city pressures but also city taxes.

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Rick Armstrong, Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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