I graduated from a class of 26. My hometown had a population of 1,200. My mother and my best friend spent their days of elementary school in a one-room country school.
There was no mall, not even a Wal-Mart, for 45 miles. There were no stop lights. I often passed tractors on the highway during the summer.
I’m from South Dakota, and to quote Journey, “I’m just a small town girl.”
And defensive about it when I need to be.
I love travelling; near, far, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been lucky enough to visit cities like San Diego and New York City (Might I say, the San Diego Zoo and Broadway, two of my favorite memories). I’ve been an exchange student in Japan and Mexico, spent a summer interning in Minneapolis, and if you haven’t caught on from the rest of my blog entries, I’m now living in Phoenix and serving a year with the AmeriCorps VISTA.
It seems that no matter where I go, once I utter the phrase, “I’m from South Dakota,” there’s always someone who does it. Wondering what ‘it’ is? Here are some examples:
“You’re from South Dakota? I’ve heard that everybody hates it there and is trying to get out.”
“Most of the rednecks must be congregated in the small towns.”
“Do you live on a farm? hahah! Do you have cows? hahaha”
These are all things directly said to my face. To clear a few things up, no, most of the people living in SD are perfectly content (Otherwise, they’d move), there are no colonies of rednecks and I am not from a farm, but quite a bit of my friends and family are, and they’re some of the hardest working and succesful people you’ll meet.
Don’t think its only absurd questions. From my time as an exchange student, I’ve had plenty assumptions made about me and my education by other US students. Apparently, it’s not ‘cool’ to be from a small town, and even though I was in college, it wasn’t worth much, being from South Dakota and all. I guess Tom Brokaw missed that memo. There were other exchange kids from towns my size, but oddly tried to avoid mentioning it and distanced themselves from me when they found out my small-town roots.
Oh, and the third comment about the ‘farm and the cows,’ came from fellow South Dakotans! Another pet peeve of mine is people saying ‘it’s different when you live in Rapid City or Sioux Falls.’ No, that is also South Dakota, and just because those places are more populated, it doesn’t make it better than the rest of the state. My home town was founded by the railroad in the 1800’s. The area is filled with farms, some of which have been in families for generations. The area has always had a small population, not because there’s something wrong with it, but because that’s the way it’s always been. Ask most of the people who live in the area, and they’ll probably tell you they wouldn’t want it any other way.
Quite honestly, it makes me sad that some people are so naïve and uneducated that they would make those assumptions. (Sometimes the assumptions do give me a good laugh though. Check out Texts from Last Night). Back on subject, I feel sorry for anyone that is embarassed to say they’re from a small town. If anything, its something unique, BE PROUD!
I will admit that this is a two-way road. I won’t deny feeling a bit scared my first time in New York City that I might get mugged, and I have jumped the gun on assuming that some urbanites I’ve met were just bound to be elitists who’ve probably never seen a real hard day’s work before. Perhaps, sometimes, I can be a little bit of a ‘ruralist.’
I must also say, I’ve heard a good share of positive stereotypes about my midwestern upbringing, which I love! More than once people have commented they’re ‘excited to be around someone from an area with such a good work ethic,’ and that people from the Dakota’s must have still have that great ‘pioneer mentality.’
Push come to shove, we all just need to realize that no certain way is better, whether rural, suburban or urban. There’s a good chance someone raised in a metro area wouldn’t think it be fun to hang out with my brother in his ice shack or tree stand all day. In retrospect, he’s probably not interested in hitting up the mall or club scene. Different strokes for different folks.
After Phoenix, I’ll be heading to grad school in Denver. Who knows where I’ll end up after. I love the city, but sometimes I really miss the small-town street dances and ‘mom and pop’ restaurants. We’ll have to see. Until then, I promise to try to not be such a ruralist, if you promise not judge this ‘small town girl.’ 🙂