How to Adapt to a Rural Community … Maybe

My situation here may be a bit different than others who start their new lives in the country. But it is still illustrative of another aspect of country life.

You see, I came here to marry a farmer. We met on line at Catholic Match. That is a story for another day. What I’m talking about today is that I came as part of an instant community. He has something like 95 first cousins, many of whom are still in this area. We live in his ancestral home, a century farm. That means that there have been Eberts in this home for more than 100 years. We go to the same Church where he was baptized.

When my son and I lived in Baltimore, I kept my Wyoming plates on the car as long as possible. I figured I had the only Wyoming plate on the eastern seaboard. Same thing when I moved to New Jersey, I kept the Maryland plate as long as possible. I didn’t mind standing out a bit.

When we moved here, I ditched the New Jersey plate within the first month. Here, I really didn’t want to stand out. Why?

Well, it’s one thing to be a little different in a huge community. It is quite another to be different in a small town. I’m always amazed that people think they can “hide out” in a small town. Really. Not a good idea. Now, this has some very positive aspects, don’t get me wrong (a popular saying around here). For example, people come down the lane to tell us that his brother’s cows are out, and there’s no one home at his brother’s place. So, we go over and get the cows back in and all is well.

When I first got here, once in a while someone would meet me and say something along the lines of “Oh, I heard about you.” I never knew what to say to that, so I never inquired exactly what they had heard. I think I assumed they wouldn’t have mentioned it if it was bad.

Now, if you’re the typical person moving into the country for the first time, the chances are you’re purchasing an existing home, or perhaps building one for yourself. Your situation will be different, but not markedly. Be guaranteed that someone is keeping an eye out.

I attended a meeting one time geared for people who are new to the country. There was a presentation on rural law that was most illuminating, with information on rural leases, etc. I was talking to a woman who was new to country living. She said the first thing she realized was that it wasn’t a “Better Homes and Gardens” type life. Somehow she thought there would be no problems with the well, or her sheep would just naturally like her. She was also surprised at the way the weather changed her plans. But the main thing she advised was to get to know the local people. She did so by hanging out at the diner for breakfast, she said. She was a friendly, outgoing person, so this worked well for her. Around here, you could also go to the local high school basketball games, and introduce yourself. I’ll bet at least one person will say: “That’s you on the old (fill in the blank) place?” If your home is at all visible from a major road, it will be followed by something like, “Saw you’re putting up new fence.” Rural people value those who make improvements.

Now your new neighbors won’t be gossipy and interfering, most likely. They will be interested and concerned. You’ll see the difference the first time your car is stuck in a blizzard and someone stops to help, or when you have cattle out and neighbors are helpful. Even if they are neighbors from the next quarter section over.  

Published on Sep 18, 2011

Grit Magazine

Live The Good Life with GRIT!