If you grew up rural you may have experienced small town rilvary between schools. Some towns clash more than others. Rivalries in my day stemmed mostly from sports. Sticking it to another town on the scoreboard just felt better when playing certain teams. It wasn’t that we didn’t like the kids from that district, perhaps they were known to be a difficult school to beat so victory tasted all the sweeter when the clock ran out and our team was ahead.
What I noticed immediately after graduating high school was a feeling I could only put my finger on after I matured.
Do you remember the first event you attended after high school where you bumped into other bi-county kids? For me it was my first college party. I recall going to it with my neighbors from my apartment complex. I was lucky enough to live above a group of kids who grew up similar to the way I did. All rural with Ag backgrounds, it was the first time I think it dawned on me that Washington soil wasn’t meant to grow wheat on every available inch. These kids came from Peppermint fields amongst many other crops, all being grown under 100 miles as the crow flies from where I grew up. I had family that had apple orchards so I knew all about fruit trees from our state but I never realized until I got to know this group of kids the diversity of crops being grown where I’m from. To set the stage it wasn’t like we sat around a conference table in our plaid shirtsdiscussing the future of foreign markets and sustainability. You could find us gathered around a second hand table with chairs that didn’t match bouncing quarters into a red solo cup. Learning about our cool neighbors was just a side effect to a game of quarters.
I roll into my first party with this group. Low and behold some familiar faces are already there. Kids I grew up rooting against are at the party and I suddenly felt like,..... I was home. I no longer wanted to root against them, we were kind of on the same team now. We knew what it was like to grow up in a small town. You found yourself having their back; even kids I didn’t particularly care for in school were now people I would literally defend because they were bi-county kids. This is small town mentality that I fully endorse and I think even if you grew up in a big school, not rural in any way you have this feeling on some level. If you graduated with 4 classmates or 400 when you hear of tragedy on the news the first thing we think of is “WHERE did that happen?” When we find out it was states away, we relax just a little. It doesn’t make the news less horrible but we don’t want tragedy in our backyard ever. Our backyards can be the neighborhoods we grow up in but as we experience life outside our youth our backyard can be our county, state, passions and even the industry we work for. When I hear of droughts in Texas or wildfires in California those states suddenly feel like my neighbors, my heart breaks for what they are going through.
When you grow up in a small town and you hear sirens you actually listen to what direction they are headed. When I worked in the county courthouse and sirens took off screaming out of town I listened long enough to determine if they were headed out north where my husband was moving machinery that day. Occasionally after the sirens you would hear a heart flight bird land. You feel it in the pit of your stomach when you hear a helicopter shortly after sirens. It means whatever happened is significant enough that people need to be flown to a larger hospital. Odds are you will know the person. The saying everyone knows everyone is no joke in rural America. What can change your thought process is when you eventually learn the identity of who was flown out. We are all human and as such we have favorite people and sometimes less than favorite people in our lives. If you find out the person flown, perhaps fighting for their life isn’t exactly one of your favorite people they do suddenly become human again. In fact, maybe you strongly disliked this person. You now realize that life really is short and rivalries and grudges are for the birds. You want to rally around this person, you attend Spaghetti dinners to offset medical costs and donate however you can. The next time you see them your heart is softer, you may even smile at them and you’ve most definitely kept them in your prayers, sent good thoughts, vibed good vibes or whatever you do. You rally behind people that were once your rival because we really are all on the same team if you think about it long enough and having small town mentality can be a great thing to cultivate.
Not gonna lie, I probably was wearing plaid but it was cool grunge plaid.