Here is what happens when you move from big city America to small town America.
On your first day, your coworker offers you a free bed, since she knows you drove out here with just a car of clothes.
Your other coworker says, “Dontcha just have a compact car? I’ve got a truck, so Imma haul that bed for ya.”
After work, they all proceed to move the bed into your bedroom, even though they’ve just met you. You think about how nice that is and how no one anywhere else would ever do that for a stranger. That night, you sleep comfortably.
The next day, while waiting in line for a taco at lunch, the person standing behind you asks, “where are you from? How are you liking it here?” It startles you when someone breaks “elevator psychology,” but you learn that they ask because this is a place where everybody knows everybody, and when there’s a new face in town, it’s news.
Your first time driving around town you realize it only takes 10 minutes to get from one end of it to the next. The nearest Walmart is an hour away, but you come to realize you’re OK with that.
When you drive to the next town over, the scenery is miles upon miles of green pastures and a never ending horizon. And in the case of Richland County, several oil rigs.
One evening, you visit the local bars with a new friend. You stop by one called the Ranger, and your friend tells you “you’re never a stranger at the Ranger.” You think this is a just a saying, until the bartender actually calls your friend by his first name and knows all his favorite drinks.
You hear stories that you wouldn’t hear about in other places. Like one about a little girl with cancer in a nearby town, and how her small community raised a good fortune to pay for her medical bills, for no other reason except that they cared about her.
Everybody around you gets excited about the county fair and rodeo coming up.
People invite you to join their church, and generally respect it if you don’t.
There are real cowboys who walk around with bigs hats and leather boots and clunky belt buckles.
At night, you marvel over the fact that there are actually stars in the sky.
There’s a siren that goes off daily at 10 p.m. to signal a curfew for underaged kids.
Men watch you when you’re out eating at a restaurant.
People born here tell you that they’re used to leaving their doors unlocked and keys in the ignition, but with the oil boom impact have stopped (or should stop) doing that.
You realize this town has its problems, but in spite of that you intuitively know that at its heart, it is a good place. Because in small town America, people are very giving. And you think to yourself, there’s no way people this giving aren’t good people.
“The Sharp Shooter” is the name of Susan Minichiello’s column. This column was published in the Sidney Herald on July 31, 2013.