The most distinctive feature in my horizon is the water tower

Small-town girl.

Urban Dictionary’s first definition is this:

Your girl-next-door who is not afraid to drive her man’s truck, loves to shoot her 22, makes Mossy Oak look hot, spends summers at the lake; her favorite place to eat is the back yard. Small-town girls think that big trucks are better than sports cars, and a good farmer tan turns them on.

Two references to trucks? Really?

The second definition for small-town girl in Urban Dictionary is even less flattering:

An ugly fat chick who drives a pickup truck and listens to shitty country music.

Ouch. Apparently small-town girls spend a lot of time in vehicles. John Cougar Mellencamp’s 1982 song “Jack & Diane,” which epitomizes small-town life for teenagers has a line, “Diane [is] debutante backseat of Jackie’s car.”

Let’s go a little more traditional (because that’s what a small-town girl values, besides her man and his truck); Cambridge Dictionary defines “small-town” as an adjective describing “of or from a small town, and sometimes having a simple or limited quality.”

Being described as a “small-town girl” makes me cringe. “Simple”? Really? Call me “cosmopolitan,” “well-traveled” or “sophisticated,” and I’m all, “Pshaw.”

But anyone who says “pshaw” has got to be small-town.

I grew up in a small town in Minnesota, no way around it. I lived in a small town in Ohio in my 20s. I lived for a decade in what felt like the big city. But even with 50,000 inhabitants, it was a small town in the middle of nowhere in Minnesota. The best restaurant in the town was Olive Garden. The tallest building had five stories. Surely, the best-selling vehicle was a Ford pick-up.

And though I like to tell people now I live in Chicagoland (accent on “Chicago”), I still live in a small town. It’s surrounded by corn fields, and that’s no exaggeration.

Here’s proof:

little city skyline

“A person can grow only as much as his horizon allows.” ~ John Powell

There’s no skyline like a little city’s skyline. See that water tower in the center of the horizon? (Squint — it’s to the left of the barn.) That water tower stands about a mile north of my suburban house (keen readers will note I’ve snagged a fragment of this picture for my blog header).

My small town sits on the edge of Chicago’s suburbia. A few minutes driving east, and you’ll find more Home Depots, venti soy lattes and traffic than you can throw a stick at.

I’m drawn to the concrete jungle or at least I like to think I am. As I was driving around in my silver Honda today on my way home from a sophisticated, cosmopolitan meeting, I felt like part of an exciting crowd. Yet my drive ended in my little city on the edge of the suburbs. My small-town subconscious is clearly making the decisions.

“It is always the simple that produces the marvelous.”

~ Author Amelia Barr

12 responses to “The most distinctive feature in my horizon is the water tower

  1. Truly marvelous. 🙂

    I live in a town of 275 people, in a county (the entirety of) which has no traffic lights.

    I drive a Ford truck on purpose.

    I can see our water tower from my door, in the winter.

    The biggest noise out here is ma cows that’ve lost their babies to weaning, and at midnight, the coyotes.

    And it’s truly marvelous.

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  5. My body lives in the city, but my heart will ALWAYS reside in the country, and small-town to me means friendly, caring, and easy to talk to.

  6. Monica, I live in Verndale, MN, near where you grew up. I go to Garden Club with your Mom. I returned to my small town 40 years ago when out children were preschool age, because my Husband and I wanted them to live near their Grandpas and Grandmas, with a small town lifestyle. Recently we have had several foreign exchange students join us for a year in our local high school during their 11th grade year; they learn about small town culture in America.
    Last year the young lady from France asked us why we chose to live so far from exciting things in this country. My response was, we love the open spaces between houses, our patch of land on the edge of town, the scent of the pine trees, the sight of ripening grain in the fields during the summer, the view of sun flowers blooming in the field behind our house, and the friendliness of most everyone in our tiny town of 500 people. We have the arts near us in the form of Community Theater, Community Band, Heartland Orchestra (which I play in each week), murals on the walls of our businesses, thriving book studies, and coffee clubs where people meet each morning to talk. We are happy and content here.

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  8. I live in a small town, have traveled more then some, and my hearts beats fast when I know I’m almost home to our small town. Some people here listen to country music – maybe more than some. Some people drive Ford pickups. Most would give you the shirt off their back even if they didn’t know what kind of music you like or what type of vehicle you drive.

  9. Today I heard we here in small town Minnesota are smarter than people from Chicago because most people here know where Chicago is but most people in Chicago don’t know where our town is.

  10. We live in Naperville, but go to Wyoming every summer to keep us sane. 🙂


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