I recently received an email from an old friend who was born and raised in the big city of Cambridge, Iowa.
Back in the olden days (1950s) when he and I were growing up, our home towns were a big part of our lives. It was competition at its best when it came to determining who had the strongest baseball team, or the nicest Main Street or the best creamery.
I’m sure it was with that in mind that he sent me a list of things that only happen in a small town.
Trouble is, what someone out on the east or west coast considers small and what someone in Iowa considers small are quite different.
Small-town Iowa didn’t have such frills as stop lights and police officers. They might have a flashing red light, but no stop lights. They could have a police officer, but not officers. Even today, most small towns in Iowa don’t have police department. Heck, they don’t even have a police officer.
Golf course? We didn’t even have a tennis court.
Well, so much for the accuracy of the word “small.” Check out the list below — no matter how you count ’em, small towns are a lot of fun.
1. You can name everyone in your graduating class.
2. You know what 4-H is.
3. You sometimes went to parties at a pasture, barn or in the middle of a dirt road.
4. You used to lap “Main” Street.
5. You said the “F” word and your parents knew within the hour.
6. You scheduled parties around the schedule of different town cops, since you knew which ones would bust you and which ones wouldn’t.
7. You could never buy cigarettes because all the store clerks knew how old you were (and if you were old enough, they’d tell your parents anyway.)
8. When you did find somebody old enough and brave enough to buy cigarettes, you still had to go out into the country and drive on back roads to smoke them.
9. It was cool to date somebody from the neighboring town.
10. The whole school went to the same party after graduation.
11. You didn’t give directions by street names. (Turn by old man Jones’ house, go three blocks east to the gas station, and it’s four houses left of the corner.
12. You couldn’t help but date a friend’s ex-boy/girlfriend.
13. Your car was usually filthy because of the dirt roads, and you won’t own a dark vehicle even today.
14. The town next to you was considered “trashy,” but was actually just like your town.
15. You referred to anyone with a new house as “rich people.”
16. The people in the “big city” dressed funny; then you would pick up the trend two years later.
17. Anyone you wanted to see could be found at the local gas station or the cafe.
18. You saw at least one friend a week driving a tractor through town, and one of your friends drove a grain truck to school occasionally.
19. The gym teacher suggested you bale hay for the summer to get stronger.
20. Directions were given using THE stop light as a reference.
21. You decided to walk somewhere for exercise and five people pulled over and asked if you need a ride.
22. Your teachers called you by your older sibling’s name.
23. Your teachers remembered when they taught your parents.
24. You could charge at all the local stores, write checks without any ID or just put it on your tab.
25. It was normal to see an old man riding through town on a riding lawn mower.
26. You laugh your butt off reading this because you know it is all true, and you forward it to everyone who lived in your town. (Because you KNOW them all!)
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.