My parents raised six children. We still wonder how.
While we siblings share a number of traits, we each have our own idiosyncrasies. Oh do we have idiosyncrasies!
Over there years I have found it interesting that our baby sister and I have gravitated toward urban living while the other four much prefer the rural lifestyle.
When I left home at the age of 19 I had only lived on farms and in towns of less than 1,200 population. As a kid I began yearning for a more urban life.
An uncle and aunt lived in Des Moines and later Urbandale and I loved visiting their home.
On one visit, Aunt Grace asked Uncle Gerrit to buy some milk. We drove several blocks to a free-standing vending machine which, when the proper amount of change had been deposited, dispensed a quart of milk.
On another visit Uncle Gerrit invited me ride along when he took Cousin Cheryl to ice skating lessons at the new ice arena on what was then the west edge of the city. Imagine ice skating indoors.
After visiting my uncle’s house we went back home to our rural home and, in my way of thinking, not much else.
My career path took me to Webster City, population 8,000, and then to Sioux City where the metro population is around 100,000. It was a small city but to this small town boy and his wife Sioux City initially seemed immense.
As much as our tight budget allowed, we took advantage of the shopping, dining and other opportunities of our larger community. I relished the diversity of the community.
We were happy in Sioux City but a career opportunity took us back to a rural community of 8,000 for 12 years. We adjusted but missed the city.
A job offer brought us to the Des Moines metro in 2000. I have now lived in the Des Moines for nearly two decades (minus a two-year hiatus in my home county.)
It has been interesting over the years to observe the thinking and reactions of city dwellers versus rural folks. When I moved back to rural Iowa in 2014 some of my city friends asked aloud how I could do that, acknowledging they could never adjust to life in a tiny farm town. When we announced two years later that we were moving back to the city a rural friend asked, “How can you go back to that traffic?”
There are advantages and disadvantages to urban and rural life. I readily recognize both.
A significant percentage of Des Moines and other urban residents are from small towns and farms. Many moved to the city for employment opportunities and discovered they enjoyed city living. Others eventually moved back to rural Iowa.
At at least half of the members of our church in Waukee grew up in rural communities. Even our pastors are country boys. Our senior pastor grew up on a farm in northwest Iowa.
My Rotary Club has nearly 200 members and many of us come from rural Iowa. One of my Rotary friends grew up a dozen miles from my home. Another was farming near Creston when I lived there 30 years ago.
Rural Iowans are not the rubes some city slickers may imagine. Many are well-educated, tech savvy and well-traveled. Because rural Iowans usually have to travel some distances for entertainment, medical appointments and other needs many are more aware of Iowa’s geography than their city cousins.
My first wife worked at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) and had to deal with Des Moines people who didn’t know how to get to Ankeny for a continuing ed class.
You should have heard the griping when the Iowa DOT announced it was building a new drivers’ license station in Ankeny a dozen years ago. Many Des Moines residents objected to driving “all the way” to Ankeny to renew their license.
There is no right or wrong to this matter. Four of my siblings are comfortable in their small towns. Baby sister in suburban Orlando and I in Des Moines’ western suburbs love city life.
In all the years I have lived in a city, I have never lived farther than five minutes from a corn or (soybean) field… even today. There is some country left in me and I still need to escape the city occasionally.
(Arvid Huisman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)