Small Town

Larry’s thoughts, scavenged from the Book of Faces- Jack

All this talk lately of what it really means to live in a “small town” because a bunch of dorks are outraged over some tractor rap pop song is causing me to pontificate about living in a small town.

I just looked up the census data for the town I was born and raised in, El Nido, California.

Population 331. 😀

Then my senior year I moved to Delta, Utah.

Population 3,436… which means it grew a lot since I was there!

Ironically, Delta felt a lot more isolated because it is way out in the west desert, while El Nido was only half an hour from an actual city, Merced, where I went to high school.  Delta has a handful of other small farm towns around it, and is an hour from I-15, and then an hour up that before you get to an actual city.

Then I lived in a small city for college (52k) and one big metroplex (116k suburb of a 1.25 million metro) for my business career, then promptly moved back to a rural area (pop 2,309) as soon as I had a commutable job, and then once I was a full time writer I moved even further out into the country to the lands too far for commuters to go. (which is too small to get its own census pop division!)

While I was a missionary I lived in small towns in Alabama and Mississippi, then in the cities of Birmingham and Montgomery. For business I’ve traveled to 45 US states (just need Alaska, Hawaii, the Dakotas, and Maine) and every major US metroplex except Miami-Dade. Some of these big cities I’ve been to enough times I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on knowing my way around a few of them, and most of those have deteriorated badly over the last decade.  

I also recognize that visiting a place or being a tourist certainly doesn’t make you an expert on the culture. The shorter the visit, the less you actually know it. Judging by most of the dorky takes I’ve heard lately I’m assuming some of these people drove through a suburb in Connecticut once so now they’re experts on farm living.

So when I see all these provincial city dorks pontificating about what life is like in small town America, I laugh my ass off.

tHeY dOnT gEt mAiL! – Yes. We’ve had mail since the pony express.

tHe liBrary cLoSeD oN sUnDay! – A. You fuckers don’t read books anyway, so quit putting on airs. B. You know where else I found lots of stuff is closed on Sunday? Cultural backwaters like London and Paris!

(seriously, Paris was the worst. If you’re staying there over the weekend, buy supplies on Saturday!)

tHeRe r NoT pRomPT mEdiCaL cAre! – dude, even small towns usually have some kind of medical center, or we drive… You know what’s shit medical care? One time I was in Times Square in NYC and some dude had a heart attack. They loaded him in an ambulance and then for the next HALF AN HOUR I matched pace ON FOOT with that ambulance and its wailing siren because it couldn’t escape the Manhattan traffic, and New Yorkers don’t give a fuck if you die, they still ain’t gonna clear the intersection for you.  

My experiences with cities are that people are less likely to give a shit, and more likely to hate each other, and more likely to meddle in each other’s business. That’s for all of them, but the bluer the city, the more likely you are to have random hobos throw rocks at you, or have some psychotic lady stop your car on the way out of the parking garage because she’s taking a shit in the exit lane.

Cities are not created equal. Shit that gets taken for granted in New York would cause an apocalyptical freak out in Salt Lake. It is all about the level of bullshit, corruption, filth, and stupidity, the locals are willing to put up with.

And on the Bumpkin Pride side of the equation, small towns are not created equal either. Some are economically depressed, poverty stricken, crab bucket, hell holes of despair, where the number one growth industry is cooking meth or stealing copper wire. And others, like the one I choose to live in now, really are all that cool, America Fuck Yeah, mom and apple pie, places where the neighbors are actually cool and don’t put up with bullshit.

So I really wish people would quit taking a country with a third of a billion unique individuals, from a hundred cultures, spread across thousands of wildly divergent jurisdictions, and act like they’re all either an apple or an orange.

That said, I prefer apples, and you couldn’t pay me enough to move back to a metroplex. 😀 I’ll visit, see the cool stuff, eat at the good restaurants, and then happily go back to a place with more cows than people.

Mormons Can't Be Warriors?
Bestseller Life, from Michaelbrent Collings

28 thoughts on “Small Town”

  1. Haven’t been to the Dakotas?!? Larry, I (South Dakotan) an extremely disappointed. You gotta get here. You need to at least visit Mount Rushmore so you can make it the scene of some epic battle in a future MHI novel (or maybe a past MHI memoirs novel?).

  2. “Paris was the worst”

    Defining worst as “stuff isn’t open on Sundays”? I grew up in Vancouver BC when nothing was open Sunday. Not only did we manage by planning a whole day ahead (checks the fridge for milk), we also didn’t have the option of just going to the mall on Sunday. So we hung out with friends and family. It was a day that you knew exactly what you were going to do, and that was nothing that involved going to the store. Oh, and you could also hang out with the friends and family who would normally have been working that day.

    When the shops finally started to open on Sunday we still didn’t go. On balance I would give up the convenience of Sunday shopping if it were a either/or choice.

    Meanwhile, here in my small town, when a local dairy opened an ice cream store in town and announced that it wouldn’t be open on Sunday there was wailing and gnashing of teeth from the anti-Christian crowd. “How dare they not have a public convenience open every day?” “They have an obligation to be open every day!”. Never mind that the town was somewhat depressed and that having the ice cream shop open six days a week has brought in tens of thousands of people from the Interstate to have a locally made ice cream cone and to buy some dairy products.

    1. And at least 90% of those complaining would not visit the ice cream shop on any day, Sunday included.

    2. Not only did we manage by planning a whole day ahead (checks the fridge for milk), we also didn’t have the option of just going to the mall on Sunday.

      That also meant getting up early on Saturday to go shopping, do banking, get a hair cut/go to the hairdressers, buy comic books, etc. Only one place in New Jersey still has Sunday closing laws, IIRC.

  3. Today, across from my front yard, the gentlemen are struggling to get the hay baled between thunderstorms. In town, down the road from here, there -is- a Tim Hortons but no Starbucks, no McDonalds. And -two- stoplights! It’s a big town.

    One thing I notice here that is truly different than Toronto or the suburbs, I can go for -weeks- without seeing a sign scolding me for eco-this or gender-that.

    Also there are no earnest Block Captains coming around to see that I’ve trimmed my garden verges (no gardens, no verges), or to sniff at the grass growing in the driveway. (For those who are blessed with not knowing, a Block Captain is the old geezer who comes around to “chat” periodically and offer wisdom on all things domestic, passing judgement on the petunias etc. Sometimes they also “organize” things like getting snow removal done “more Efficiently” and so forth.)

    No one complains about the “junk car” in the yard, or the hoisting crane. Indeed, there have been complements on the junker and the crane from certain of the local cognoscenti who knew what they were looking at.

    No one has ever called the cops on me for trimming the trees in my own yard out here. The same cannot be said of the suburbs.

    On the whole, I must say that compared to city life I have no complaints whatsoever out here in Hooterville Ontario. Those who love the big city are encouraged to stay there. Please, do not visit the country. We like you where you are. Far away.

    1. One thing I notice here that is truly different than Toronto or the suburbs, I can go for -weeks- without seeing a sign scolding me for eco-this or gender-that.

      Oh yeah, that’s a really great thing, to not have to see or put up with anything that reminds you about the environment or about people’s civil (human) rights.*


  4. Not to wax poetic or get too personal, but….

    We recently relocated from a Left Coast metroplex to a rural area outside a small town (population: ~3,600) in middle America. The culture and pace of life is totally different…

    … and we are never going back.

    Technically, our new home is in an economically-depressed area, compared to nearby counties, and especially where we came from. But there’s enough opportunity that people willing to do a bit of hustle do just fine.

    The most dramatic difference, though, is the neighborly culture. In the Left Coast metroplex, we lived in two different neighborhoods — 3 years in one and 10 in the other — and never met most of our neighbors in either place (despite trying to introduce ourselves to everyone, and despite our kids running all over playing with any other kids they saw). Everyone kept to themselves, nobody wanted to be bothered.

    In the rural small town, though, we met most of our immediate neighbors in the first week; they stopped by to introduce themselves and welcome us to the area. When the weather got real bad — sub-zero temps that took out the power for days — one neighbor got in his truck and drove through the snow, just to knock and check on us (and then offered to let us borrow his generator). And when we had a medical tragedy, the outpouring of support from the community was, in a word, unreal. Meal trains arranged and supplied by people from miles around that we’d never met. Whole churches we’d never been to praying for us. Offers to watch our kids, clean our house, mow the grass, shop for groceries, everything. And the attitude the whole time was an open and friendly, “We take care of our own.” We’d barely just got here, but we were here, and that was enough.

    We have more cows for neighbors than people, but the people we do have are just … better people … than the hundreds of thousands in the metroplex, combined. These are the kind of people I want my kids to grow up to be.

    Like I said, we’re never going back.

  5. Great, now this is stuck in my head:

    Green acres is the place to be
    Farm livin’ is the life for me
    Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
    Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside

  6. Less’n you’re drilling for oil, I’m not entirely sure you NEED the Dakotas ‘cept’ election year.

    1. Rapid City area, Cathedral Spires, and the Black Hills are pretty spectacular; and as long as you’re there you can see Mt Rushmore.

  7. Big cities are fine…at spitting distance.
    Nice to visit one once in a while to remind myself why I don’t want to live in one.

  8. Well, I was born in Boston (can’t help where your folks live) and raised outside Philly. Got tired of Winter and rude, aggressive Yankee drivers. Went to school in NC and decided to move here even BEFORE I met my bride-to-be. 45 years later, we live in the house she was raised in. Town’s grown some, but still small enough.

    Last night, I left my car windows down all night, on account of the heat wave. 94F outside turns into 150F inside the car by the time I get up. 2 range bags with 6 guns in them in the cargo area; no worries that they’d still be there.

    No Regrets about leaving the cities behind.

  9. I grew up in New York City (8,804,190, population density: 29,298/sq mi), the largest city in the United States. Over twice the population of the #2 largest city, Los Angeles. (3,898,747, population density: 8,304/sq mi)

    In the mid 1980s I moved to Albany, NY. (100,826, population density: 4,637/sq mi.) Then in the early aughts My Wife and I moved to Averill Park, NY. (2,098, population density: 519.69/sq mi) In 2017 We moved just outside Rocky Top, TN. (1,628, population density: 1,005.56/sq mi)

    I can safely say I’ve experienced the full range of urban to rural living in the United States. I much prefer the rural and you couldn’t pay me enough to move back to an urban area.

  10. I saw the stupid original tweet and immediately remembered how Battleship New Jersey’s curator has, at several points in the past, compared the Iowa class and their 2000+ men crew a small town when noting that USS New Jersey had dedicated rooms for things you might not expect on a warship.

    USS New Jersey had (and still has a museum) a decently sized library, that best I can tell was open 7 days a week. She had a proper doctor’s office with at least two proper doctors (with a shockingly mundane waiting room) +pharmacy+dentist office with two dentists, and she would get mail (though hardly regularly scheduled). A warship that was literally in the middle of the ocean during a World War had three of the four things that loser thought didn’t exist in small towns!

    1. And two full-time lawyers, IIRC.

      I can only think of a few reasons why a crew member might need the immediate help of a lawyer (read: cannot wait until they’re back ashore), but the Navy sees enough need to supply two — probably in case of conflicts between crew members, so each has their own representation.

      1. Shore leave was the most dangerous thing for a sailor on an Iowa class and responsible for the majority of crew fatalities. I expect legal trouble from it was plentiful.

        Other things on an Iowa class included a gym, a TV news studio, a barbershop, multiple machine shops, a dedicated movie theater, a computer literacy classroom, and a woman’s bathroom.

  11. I grew up in a very small town in Central Florida (that has since been swallowed up by the Villages)- in a house my grandfather built after returning from WWII.
    There’s good things, and there’s those bad things that the damn yankee knowitalls typically miss when they yammer about small town life. Mainly the fact that everyone knows you, so one’s scandals and foibles will be the topic of discussion for decades.
    As to the nonsense they spout about libraries, restaurants, or stores, well, driving for an hour or more to do something isn’t really an issue.

    1. RE: driving for an hour:

      I was telling a friend, when you live rurally and have to drive 20-30 minutes to get to the nearest small town, another 30 minutes to get to the next, larger town isn’t as a big deal.

      Especially if you enjoy the scenery that comes with country roads.

      That was a pleasant surprise for me. I’ve always enjoyed driving, but the views, the lack of traffic lights, and friendly drivers who wave as you or they pass, made driving genuinely fun again.

  12. I’ve noticed something in the past 20 years or so. It used to be that the knowledge and perspective available in a small town was very limited. There would be few outsiders moving through, libraries were small, schools were K-12 with local teachers. You had to go to a big city to expand your horizons. They had the ports, they were where the roads converged, that was where you could meet people from far away. They had the big libraries, the universities, the museums. So people from small towns got a reputation for being small-minded, of limited perspective.

    But things have changed since then. Each of us now carries a handheld terminal to a worldwide telecommunications network. Want to look up the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Properties of Bessel Functions? Japanese verb conjugations? Sanskrit poetry? It’s there, a fire hose of information, more than any human can absorb. So the question is no longer “what information do you have access to” but “how easily can you filter out viewpoints from outside your worldview?”

    If you live in the same cities that house the power centers of politics, of academia, journalism, publishing, and big tech, the answer is probably “pretty effortlessly”. You don’t have to be aware dissenting voices exist, apart from your chosen sources telling ghost stories about extremists. But rest assured, the inhabitants of Podunk, in the state of Flyover, are well-versed in your perspective and culture. They can’t get away from it. So who’s the rube now?

  13. There is the other side of the coin, especially if the small town is very culturally insular. Outsiders are always outsiders. I worked in a town that was basically Dutch/German, but happened to be located in the American Midwest. “What will the neighbors say” was a serious concern, and you’d best not be seen doing any work on Sunday, or People Would Talk.

    None of the churches I visited acted the least bit interested in having me back. People were polite but not especially friendly, especially since my job broke the expected roles for women. They weren’t hostile, with a few notable exceptions, but no one really made me feel welcome. I ended up going to church and doing social things in a town a few miles up the road that had more variety (and that the people in “my” town considered more than a little suspect. After all, “that town” had Catholics and Presbyterians as well as [dominant denomination].) *Shrug* Perhaps I could have fit in better if I’d actively worked at it. My job got in the way of that, to an extent. I’m glad I had the experience, but it is another side of small towns that some people collide with.

    1. Oh, yeah. I live a half-hour away from one of those insular rural areas; one of my best friends lived there for years. There are internecine family feuds that have lasted for generations, and even if you’ve lived there for 25 years, you’re still considered a newcomer.
      I prefer rural life, but you’ve got to realize going in that there are open, friendly rural communities, and closed, suspicious ones.

  14. Saw that tweet on Larry’s twitter timeline.

    Yes, you can get all that stuff in a small town without getting carjacked, held at gunpoint, or having the town square get torched by marauding college dropouts.

  15. Lived in Baltimore city row home 10+ years, survived, married and graduated from college. Not the yuppie neighborhood. Move with hubby to county, adapted. Nicer people, quick access to grocery stores, and guaranteed that when a snow storm came through we would lose power. East coast and life events pushed us to move out of state to flyover state. Husband thrives, as I do. Different way of life, and we are both happy. What I gave up, close grocery stores, crab cakes,Berger cookies, and Rhebs candy. Went back for moms memorial, I’m different, happy to be back to my three light small town. It is what it is.

  16. “I prefer apples to oranges!” (paraphrased)

    Was… was that a Friendship is Magic reference?!

    Because if it is, that’s awesome!

  17. You should visit North Dakota last. I hear it’s a thing. They have a North Dakota Last club and everything.

    As for Small Towns, I grew up on a small farm about 5 miles from a small town (nearest grocery store bigger than a mom-and-pop was an hour drive away). In my experience, the song over-states a bit, although I was in Illinois, so that might have something to do with it. All of Illinois lives in Chicago’s political shadow. I escaped when I could and now live in “real America”… Sorta… as much as “real America” exists anymore anyway.

  18. Bumpkin Pride, hell yeah!!! That needs to be a thing. We need a flag, probably camo, and our own parade. What month should be our “pride”month?

  19. “It is all about the level of bullshit, corruption, filth, and stupidity, the locals are willing to put up with.”

    I think that is pretty much it.

    As for the Republic, I suspect Mr. Bongino has it correct, that is: “It hasn’t gotten bad enough, yet.”

    Also, a recent Kindle purchase by James Tarr-Dogsoldiers- had a reference to something you said:

    “A friend of mine who is a political activist said something interesting the other day, and that was for most people on the left political violence is a knob, and they can turn the heat up and down, with things like protests, and riots, all the way up to destruction of property, and sometimes murder . . . but for the vast majority of folks on the right, it’s an on and off switch. And the settings are Vote or Shoot Fucking Everybody. And believe me, you really don’t want that switch to get flipped, because Civil War 2.0 would make Bosnia look like a trip to Disneyworld.”

    I could be wrong, but I think that is EXACTLY correct.

    If we somehow manage to thwart all efforts by the quislings that are laughingly referred to as our government in DC, to stop Trump from winning again, there probably are going to be “protests.”

    Let them . . . as long as they protest PEACEFULLY as described in the First Amendment.

    At the first sound of breaking glass, open fire.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *