When we moved deep into the North Dakota prairie, I told my friends I would miss Starbuck’s and Target the most from our metropolitan Fargo life. Don’t choke on your coffee. Compared to where we were moving to Fargo is a metropolitan mecca. In Fargo I had a 15 minute commute to work from south Fargo to my downtown office. I had an array of pop culture options for shopping, dining and entertainment. Certainly it was the amenities I would miss of city life versus prairie life.
But I was wrong. I hate it when I am wrong.
In the first week of moving into our 800 square foot rental house in our small town, a woman knocked on our door. She was a stranger to me. She said, “Hi! Is your son here? I have some boys down at the park ready to meet him and play.” Hunter came to the door and the woman directed him to get on his bike, take a left at the stop sign and ride straight down to the city park and to introduce himself to boys waiting to meet him. Then she got back on her bike and rode away before I even got her name.
Our son, Hunter, had never even rode his bike alone around our block in south Fargo, much less blocks away to the park by himself. He was nearly 10 years old. He never left my sight. Panicked, I called my husband. This small town was his childhood home.
He laughed and knew exactly who the woman was and told me Hunter would be safe and just fine at the park, meeting new friends.
There were not strangers lurking. Anywhere. Not at the park. Not at the one and only grocery store. It was just whispers at the store. The whispers in the grocery were often loud when I passed by, “That’s Nathan Pinke’s wife”. The whisperers looked friendly, just not sure of a woman that didn’t look their Germans from Russia heritage. I looked like an outsider and still do. Tall, blonde and from a town they don’t know. I started to say hello to the whisperers in the grocery store. They said hello back and introduced themselves.
I rarely saw someone I would know at one of the many grocery stores in Fargo. There was a distance between people when shopping in Fargo. There was a rush, a hurry to get to your next destination.
The comfort in knowing people felt safe and right to me in our small town. The wide open spaces. The serenity. The slow pace of this remotely located rural town grew on me within months of our move.
There is not a stop light in our small town. Or county. Or any adjacent county. There is no traffic. And everyone waves when they pass by you, whether they know you or not.
A few weeks ago while commuting from our prairie home to Bismarck I did a radio interview with a friend and nationally known radio talk show host, Trent Loos. It was 50 minutes in length. The biggest accomplishment of that radio interview was that I never lost cell phone service. We talked primarily about farming and ranching myths for Trent’s show, Rural Route Radio.. He was explaining where I lived, where I was traveling to, on air. I said that I live 98 miles from civilization (and yes I pass Starbuck’s at 97 miles). He said that I didn’t see that as a negative, did I?
I said absolutely not and that I was very proud of where I live. It was a short, passing comment. Most people that know me know that I wear rural North Dakota on my sleeve.
Rural North Dakota my favorite place in the world. It’s where I belong. It’s not just where I live now. It’s my calling. It’s my peace and joy. My husband could have had a career on the east coast. I could have had a career on the west coast. But we are happiest right in the middle of the prairie.
The interview was posted on the internet. Some locals listened to it. They took offensive. Although they never directly told me. They just talked about it in the beauty shop or whispered about it when I passed in the grocery store, after they waved and said hello. 98 miles from civilization. What audacity she has.
We each have different experiences. Different takes. Different definitions of many aspects of life. It is one thing that I love and appreciate about people. We can have mutual respect for one another while not always agreeing. Often we get to a better, more successful place by understanding different perspectives.
I have seen what the world thinks is civilization in major cities across the United States in my former career. The civilization I visited has a lot of pop culture and big brands. Much more than even my former beloved Fargo. But pop culture civilization has a lot of traffic compounded with too many stoplights, high taxes and crime with little sense of community or belonging. And people that I didn’t trust.
Living in our small town in the middle of the remote prairie taught me, I don’t love pop culture’s civilization. The truth is what we have on the prairie is precious. The people that have lived here for generations might not know it. They might not embrace it. But my husband and I, as small business owners, choose it as the only place we want to build a business because of the people on the prairie. And the people might not always agree but it is the people that make us want to raise our kids on the prairie. Because the civilization in our corner of the prairie is unique. It’s not what the world knows. It’s Germans from Russia food traditions. It’s trust in one another to let your children ride freely in town to the park. It’s a kind hello in the grocery store.
I boldly and proudly wear my badge of who I am today, where my roots are deep. Prairie dweller. Photographing sunrises and sunsets. 98 miles from Target. Starbuck’s. Far from stop lights and lanes of traffic. 98 miles from what the world grasps as accepted first world civilization.
Now I await the back lash from my Starbuck’s drinking, Target loving, city girlfriends. Do not worry ladies. I love visiting you in the city. Emphasis on visiting.
Do you choose rural or city life and why?
i’m a hermit by nature so totally enjoy country life. no malls for me.
Katlyn Rumbold says
Rural life all the way! Currently, I’m in the city now for my job and I find myself missing the wide open spaces more and more:/ I mean I can’t walk out of the house in my pajamas in the city lol.
Crystal Cattle says
We live outside a town of a bout 4,000. It still seems small town to me, but at times I wish it was even smaller. Don’t tell my husband that! I think if it was smaller it would be easier to get to know the people in our community better. I am so glad that we live on a farm. I am also grateful for the UPS and Fedex man!
We are 90 miles south of the nearest big city. Life has changed for us, but it has been for the better. Much like you, it was strange at first, but I couldn’t go back.
Sadly, we do not have a place that far from civilization, but we do pick country life because here, people still wave as they go by, too.
Hope you all have a blessed Friday!
WE bought a house way out in it the country in Feb. We had a great summer, I never heard the kids once say they were bored! We wouldnt have it any other way, I dont mind living far out, I love raising my kids out here. So much dafer, different people, slower, quieter. They are going to be enrolled in 4H soon! Theyll grow up to be good and rspectable cowgirls and cowboys!
Karen L says
Not everyone’s description of civilization is the same so that is why others may take offense to your definition. I have been a country dweller my entire life (except for my college years in the FM area) and I consider country life my civilization. I don’t need a Starbuck’s or Caribou down the street when I can have a Kuerig machine at home and order my K-cups online. As long as the UPS man can find me I am still on the radar. My husband and I look upon city life as somewhat a zoo
To each his/her own and so glad that you and your family are embracing the choice you made to raise your children in the country and on the prairie.
So here I sit on the prairie in MN clicking my ruby red slippers together chanting “there is no place like home”.
I enjoyed this post—and I totally get it. There are many times I miss the quietness of where I was raised. We’re in small town now (about 5,000 people) which I love–the small close-knit communities that you described…but also a quick 15 minute drive to Target 🙂 Lots of “hints” and pressure for us to move back home after I graduate in May, but there is so much that would go into a decision like that. One we aren’t ready to make just yet, so while we look for some sort of clear ringing of “where should we be”, we will stay put. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Brooke @ Rural Gone Urban says
Katie – I love this post. With my new life changes I’m about to move from add a new chapter to my rural gone urban to rural gone urban to really, really urban.
The 17th largest city in the nation, Charlotte, will be my new hope.
I always love your posts. always.
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I heard that radio broadcast as I did what only a rural farm wife might justify doing…My ear infected toddler would not sleep lying down so I strapped her in the backseat of my one ton truck and drove around our section checking on hunters,then over to the local farm stead that is for sale and facebooked one of my best friends from college, now living in a big city with the details that she could be my neighbor if she was ready to move back to Kansas…I listened in awe as my daughter fought sleep…wondering how you make it all work blog, work, commute, dinner, home, kids (thanks for the picture of your entry way this past week) I grew up in the most populated county in my state and now live in one of the least…and I love it…I can tell you do to…the city has it’s perks but the longer I am in the country…far removed from billboards and traffic and concrete…the more I crave my deer and turkey neighbors..and yes my nearest two neighbors are named Butch…Thank you for sharing your rural experience in your eloquent voice…I am glad I found your voice of the plains 🙂