I used to shop often at an antique store in a regional city near my home in rural South Dakota. It was a regular day-off stop, so much so that I got to know one of the shop managers pretty well. We'd talk a little about the antique business, farm auctions, folk crafts and regional artists. There were certain items that they wouldn't carry in the store, because there wasn't any market, she said. Most people didn't have money for that.
Then she said something that has stayed with me for over ten years.
"They really take advantage of the hard-working people of this state."
What do you mean? I asked.
She said, the business community and the political community in her town banded together to keep wages low, knowing that most people would by their nature work hard no matter how little they were getting paid.
I've been thinking about "small town values" lately. We love those small town values: work hard, go to church, know your neighbors, care about each other. We love those small town values: independence, simple living, growing gardens, telling stories, knowing your history, knowing your limits.
But, it's a funny thing.
Those great small towns, the best places to raise children, the backbone of our country: most of them don't seem to be doing very well. My town, for example, had no bank, no school, no cafe, no grocery store and no gas station. Just the church, and the grain elevator, and the post office.
Not all small towns are in the the same boat, I know. A few have figured out creative ways to flourish. Some benefit by their proximity to larger cities.
Still, I wonder, if we love small towns so much, if we think they are such good places to raise future citizens, why are they getting to be endangered species?
While I don't agree with everything in this article, it does give some excellent food for thought.