It's the greatest time of the year! The Swinkey Picnic is this Sunday!

What is Swinkey? It's a question I often get, especially since I tend to work the word in at least once a week on our radio show. Actually, Swinkey is not a what but a where. In fact, it's barely a where.

Swinkey is a little church community a few miles outside of Monroe City, MO on Highway 24. On the map (if it makes the map, and most times it doesn't) it is labeled Indian Creek. Everyone calls it Swinkey though, after one of its original settlers. I'm not sure of the actual population, but the most recent unofficial census put the number of residents at about a dozen. However, if you go to mass there at St. Stephens for three weeks in a row, that's enough to make you a Swinkian, which pushes the population considerably higher.

I come from Swinkey. Anyone who does is proud to say it. Our biggest claim to fame is the Swinkey Picnic, which is coming up this Sunday, July 15. It's the oldest continuous picnic in the state of Missouri. For more than 150 years, people have traveled to Swinkey for a fried chicken meal and some good old-fashioned fun. For many kids, the picnic is bigger than Christmas. A visit to the picnic means the kids will come home with scads of trinkets they've won at games or gotten in grab bags. These days, it's a bunch of cheapo stuff ordered from Oriental Trading Company. If you're looking for quality at the picnic, you'll find it in the chicken and the homemade pies, not from the prizes.

Those of us who hail from Swinkey like to think there's no other place on earth like it. I'm biased beynd a doubt though. I'm sure Swinkey is like many other rural villages where life centers around the church and your neighbors. A casserole is the cure for all that ails you, whether it's surgery, a death in the family or childbirth. Swinkey women who have babies can expect hot, home-delivered meals for a month.

Though it seems like time stands still in Swinkey, it has in fact changed a lot, even since my childhood. Most of the women don't get to stay home to raise their children any more. Not many of the men farm full time. The kids are raised on the internet and computer games. But like so many other small communities, it's the spirit that makes it home, even if it's not a place on the map or a detour on the information superhighway.

Swinkey is not a what, or really even a where. Swinkey is a state of mind.