This is out first in the Best of 2016 series.
This post was originally published on Figuring Out the Plot and was subsequently published in several newspapers. It is my most-read post ever.
I grew up in rural America. And my husband and I have chosen to raise our family here. In town without stoplights or movie theatres or malls. We don’t have Starbucks or fancy shops or live music (well, except for Fourth of July in my hometown or the rodeo weekend in my current town, both of which are kinda big deals). The high school I attended didn’t have a band or offer French class and there were 200 kids, in one building, grades K through 12.
One of the best parts of living in rural America is the people. I grew up surrounded by neighbors who were like family to me. They helped with homework, they bought whatever crap I was selling as a fundraiser, and they pulled together when things got tough. A month ago when one of our cows got out and I was 9 months pregnant with a husband out of town and a one year old, two of our neighbors jumped right in and had her put up and the fence fixed before I even got home. When a neighbor’s house burned down, the whole community rallied to raise money and offer support. This is what people do here in rural America.
I can tell you the names of my neighbors dogs for the past three decades. I bought my first cow from Robert when I was 9 years old. I still remember where the owl clock hung in Faye’s kitchen, although she has been gone now for over 20 years. I will never forget the taste Aunt Jean’s cheesecake she always brought to my grandma’s New Year’s Eve Party.
And, so, on election night when the media kept referring to rural Americans like me, my family, my neighbors, and my friends, as “uneducated” it really made my blood boil.
These people raise children. They raise the food the people in cities–including snooty news anchors–eat every day. They go to church and school carnivals and fair board meetings. They serve on the volunteer fire department and organize prayer circles and throw the best wedding showers.
And while some of us did receive a college education–I like to think my two college diplomas I earned while being first in my class (meaning the country kid beat the city kids) might deem me “educated,” the rest of us have received an education in the world. Some of the smartest people I know never graduated college and live in rural America. These women can sew anything you can think of, make the best tamales, and raised some of the best people I know. The men can fix anything, work circles around any man in a suit, and will spend hours helping their neighbor in a time of need. They understand agronomy, economics, and animal husbandry better than most people with PhDs.
Recently, my dad figured up cost per acre on dry land milo on the back of an envelope in about 5 minutes, and the economists I worked with confirmed he was spot on after 3 hours of complex spreadsheets. He may not have walked around the gym in a cap and gown with a doctoral hood, but he is far from uneducated.
We made the decision to live in rural America consciously, and there is no place where and no people around whom I would rather live or raise my babies. If you ask me, a lot of city folk would be better off if they spent a little time around some of these “uneducated” rural Americans. I am sure grateful for the ones in my life.