I do believe that the majority of people who now live in cities once had their roots in the country. I’m not naïve enough to believe that every city person’s ancestors once lived in rural American. No doubt there are city dwellers who can trace their family lineage all the way back to antiquity and their roots will still be in the city. That’s fine.
But on that note, I do believe there is a difference between city folks and true-bred, country folks. Let me explain. Although I grew up in the country, I have lived three-fourths of my life in the city. So, I do have a perspective about neighbors on both sides of the fence, so to speak. And, I must admit that even though I’m more than 50 years removed from my rural roots, I still prefer the country and the hospitality of country folks – at least those that I grew up around.
There’s an expression that goes, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” When I first left home, I believed that to be true. Today, I’m not so inclined to believe that. Here’s why. With the advent of television and Hollywood and social media, and the rise of cross-cultural magazines, etc., many people who had their roots in the country are not as quick to relate to or identify with their history and upbringing. It appears that the old country boy wants to be a city boy after all.
I meet people all the time I think were born and raised in the city until they tell me they moved from some small town or the country and usually from down South and many times from Arkansas. Had they not told me, I would have never known, because now, they talk and act just like “city slickers.” That’s not all bad, but I do remember the manners and politeness and courtesies of country and small-town folks. For instance, where I’m from, you would almost never walk past someone and not speak – even if you don’t know them. That’s just the “Southern,” small-town way. Of course, there are always exceptions, but those are usually personally based. I’m referring to the norm.
Now, let me be a little more specific about the differences I see between city and country people. It’s a little blurred today, so I’ll base my assertion on bygone years. I’ve already mentioned about speaking. We kids were also taught to say, “Please,” “Thank you,” “May I have?” “Yes, ma’am,” and “No sir,” and on and on and on, You get my drift? It was unheard of for anyone, especially children to speak to an adult in a casual manner. Do you believe that now?
Also, country people are more hospitable and polite and accommodating, not to mention less selfish than city folks. In an emergency or a crisis, the community comes together, whether on an individual or a larger basis. Rural and small-town people were neighborly and respectful of other people’s rights and property. At least, that used to be the case.
I like the time when a neighbor would show up on your doorstep or you would show up on theirs and ask to borrow a cup of sugar or some flour or whatever you just ran out of. Now, tell me this, how in the world do you borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor that you don’t even smile at, let alone speak to? How true it is that many of us don’t even know our neighbors and sadly to say, don’t even want to know them. Right?
Now, back to the borrowing thing. Do you know any neighbors you would borrow anything from today – even an item as trivial as a match? I can count on one hand the few times I’ve borrowed an item from a city neighbor. And even then, I had a funny feeling asking. Social norms have changed, and each of us is expected to have our own “stuff.” If we don’t have it and can’t get it, we probably had better not ask our neighbor … city neighbor that is, for it. How does that expression go when you’re out of something and can’t get to the store? “Tough luck.”
In the country, I didn’t learn to be leery or suspicious or afraid of people, even total strangers. We trusted people, confided in them, shared secrets and just laid our hearts bare to our friends and neighbors. We were not afraid that someone would do something bad to us. That’s how simple and naïve country people are … and that’s probably why the “pigeon droppers” made their biggest windfall from unsuspecting, innocent, country folks. But even still, that didn’t stop us from trusting others. Those experiences made us more aware but not paranoid.
A lot has changed, and I must admit not for the better either, and even though I’m not comfortable borrowing a cup of sugar from my “next-doorie,” I still prefer to live in the “dreams of my yesteryears” – those dreams that tell me I can still do that, if “push comes to shove.”