Two years ago I made a huge change in my life: I left my hometown (the only city I’d ever lived in) and moved clear across the country to a small town that I’d never even visited before.
I haven’t regretted the move at all. Even so, after two full years now, I’m still finding myself periodically marveling at the differences between the big city east coast life I grew up with, and the small-town north-west life I live now.
It’s great fodder for stories, for sure. Even though my current WIP does not take place in a small rural town, I’m filing away my observations for potential future writing use. And now, I’m sharing these little observations with you! So if you’ve never lived in a small rural town, then feel free to take some of these tidbits and use them to inspire your own writing!
A Town of “The”
My town is small enough that it’s a town where many things are “the.” As in, “the post office,” “the Chinese restaurant,” and “the gas station.” It used to be a town of “the traffic light,” but then the light was removed. There is only one other traffic light in the entire county, just past the north edge of town; so my town is officially now a no-light town.
If you come from a small town or a rural area, some of these observations may be familiar to you. But if you’re like me and grew up in a modern city, then I offer you some small-town observations that can maybe give you some writing ideas!
-Crowds at the P.O. or city hall means more than 2 people in line in front of you. I came from a place where going to the post office to mail a package was an all-afternoon affair. Now, if I have to wait more than ten minutes, I consider that a long wait. And if both teller windows are open? Then it’s really crowded.
-Unmarked roads, dirt roads, and no roads. Where I live, about half the roads in the county don’t show up on Google maps. And about half of the ones that do show up are actually private roads – that is, driveways or roads through private property. A good way to tell if a road is a public county road is the collection of mailboxes gathered at the end of the road or at an intersection. That means multiple families live down that road (no one has a mail box in front of their house). A lot of public roads are dirt or gravel, so be prepared to have a perpetually dirty car. And in order to view some of the best natural wonders and scenic views, be prepared to hike, because there are usually no roads. I happen to live in a sparsely-populated region, where the trees and the wildlife far outnumber the roads and the people.
-Noon whistle. My town happily still has an old-fashioned tradition that was once a part of many rural working towns. Every weekday at noon, a siren sounds from city hall downtown; it’s clearly audible throughout the valley and the northern part of town. Once upon a time the noon whistle told factory workers and school children that it was time to pause for lunch. A noon whistle isn’t really needed these days, but it’s a fun tradition that reminds the locals of days gone by.