Thoughts About City vs Small Town Life

This morning, I read somewhere about a new author writing a vampire series with a twist - the 'scene' is a small southern town. The author thought it unique to put these mystical creatures in a small town instead of foggy London or damp New Orleans; so much so that she believes the vampires are more realistic because they shop at Wal-Mart and speak with a back-woodsy drawl.

I found the whole thing to be a large city dweller's stereotypical misinterpretation of what it's like to live in a small, rural town.

Way back when I was a little kid of 5, my family moved from a small city into a rural town that was a 15 minute drive away. This little town had two bars, a grocery store, a drug store, a gas station, and its own school system. In the 1960s, you didn't have to worry about locking your doors or be concerned about letting the kids roam the neighborhood. Mothers yelled out the door when it was time for supper.

I bought the country house I grew up in and raised my son there, always hanging on to the belief that my safe childhood neighborhood would be a safe one for my son too. It wasn't. By the mid 1980s, you had to lock your doors - to the house and to the car parked in the driveway - and the chip/seal road became a racetrack for a lot more cars in one day than what drove past that same house in half a year only 25 years before. The neighbors weren't the same and they had no interest in knowing each other. It was impossible for my son to enjoy the same freedom I had as a child.

Without realizing it, I've spent my adult life seeking that same safe and peaceful environment that I enjoyed as a child. I roamed fields, climbed mountains and waded in creeks. If I wasn't on my own two feet, I was riding my horse exploring those same fields, mountains and creeks. I grew up with a love and respect for Mother Nature that is totally alien to today's kids.

That alienation from our true environment is now even more distanced by the disillusions of what life is like in a small town now. I've seen quite a bit as a reporter in a mostly rural county to be able to describe fundamental differences that go beyond stereotypes.

Though the city is small when compared with the likes of NY City, Detroit, Denver, Dallas, the largest city in this county is also the county seat. There is a large police department, the Sheriff's Department, a sizable jail. two large school systems, a community college and a major university within the city limits. The city council concentrates on attracting business and developing recreation and tourism features to attract industry. There is an emphasis on collecting taxes, policing and increasing the revenue stream.

Not 10 minutes away is a small town that has one policeman, a volunteer fire department, a two-room city hall and a new open field destined to become a community park. The city council and mayor are older people who all grew up in this small town and chose to live their entire lives there. They know the history of the town and know the families that live there by name. This city council concentrates on fixing the railroad crossing so that the elderly gentleman that lives on the other side won't have to drive the long way around to get to his doctor appointments. They quickly decide on speed bumps to be installed on streets where little children live so that they can play in their front yards safely. Their emphasis is on building public restrooms at the park, offering training seminars for the volunteer firemen and fixing the broken swing on the park's swingset. The city budget is so tiny that it barely pays the electric bill for city hall, yet everyone in town will volunteer if something needs to be done.

Yes, most shop at Wal-Mart, some have a deep southern accent, some commute to Little Rock to work, some have left and came right back, and many are educated, successful, wealthy and high-level state politicians that live next door to the actors and actresses that have chosen small town, rural America to be their home.

Me, I can't handle the sterile anonymity of city living. I was not comfortable not knowing the names of the people on the other side of my back yard fence. Every sound heard can only be an intruder, a rapist or a thief, and driving down the road became prep for a demolition derby.

Here, my neighbors keep an eye on my horse when I'm at work, they watch for me to come home to invite me over for a glass of iced tea and supper if I'm of a mind to eat. Their phone number is saved in my cell phone and visa versa. We watch out for each other, wave with a smile as we pass each other, and stop to chat when we see someone out mowing the yard. Kids of all ages ride 4-wheelers up and down the road and stop to pet neighbors' dogs, cats and even goats. They all smile and wave as they go by.

I live by myself, but I'm never alone. It's safe and peaceful here. And my front door is never locked.

Oh, no vampires live here either.


  1. Theresa - thank you for participating in the a to z poem. I appreciate your visits and comments. I was born and live in a small town about 35 miles from ny city. It's much busier than when I was a boy and although it's safe - there is so much traffic and so many more people that my children do not have the same freedom that I had. Through my work, my wife and I were lucky enough to live in London for a while in the mid 1990s. It was amazing, alive, incredibly fun. I think I would have loved to live there forever. Your post is poignant and I love the last line. . . and as with you, not living near any vampires, I did not meet any werewolves in London. I hope you have a nice weekend.

  2. I like those a to z's, Koe. I grew up in upstate NY and raised my son there. It stopped feeling like "home" to me, so I left. I've never been overseas. London sounds great!

    Anything is possible! I see new things every day - I just don't happen to see vampires or werewolves. LOL

  3. The isolation really bites sometimes. I certainly agree; my generation is missing that kind of freedom... I guess it's strange that even when you live in the midst of millions of other people, sometimes it's like they aren't even there. Born a few decades too late darn it.

    You have a very insightful blog by the way; a fascinating read!

  4. You weren't born too late, you were born just in time to open the doors for others to see! Dig in!!

    I hope to see you back, G!

  5. Rural America is the best. I hate the stereotypes... but the reality is pretty darn good.

  6. You bet it is! I wouldn't live anywhere else but the country!!

  7. I sure do miss the country! I fell in love with beach and the warm weather. I'm now probably the only girl living in a touristy beach town with a 1963 Avion silverbullet camper, two naked kids running thru the sprinkler and a compost pile in the backyard. You can take the girl out of the country but you can NOT take the country out of the girl. I love that sound about growing up in the boon-dox - that's me. Love ya,J