Something wonderful fading into history

In yesterday’s Minot Daily News, staff writer Kim Fundingsland shared a beautiful ode to small towns – in this case, a really small town, in Ruso, N.D., which at some point soon will swell to its maximum population of four, as the state’s smallest incorporated town.

Kim’s story is well worth reading.

All around the nation, particularly in the Midwest and in other rural parts of the the U.S., small towns are, sadly, drying up and disappearing. The realities and challenges of economics and changes in our cultural norms are driving this reality. The days when young people are interested in carving out a life and raising a family in tiny communities are just passing. There are greater opportunities economically elsewhere; and the economic demands on families are so much greater. In small towns, where are the jobs and customers to support them? In small towns, where are the healthcare institutions to keep people healthy? How distant are schools?

In simpler days, towns of under 100 people could survive similarly to how they had in the decades prior. Furthermore, in simpler days, parts of the country like ours were defined by small towns. Many of us in this part of the world still see small towns as the backbone of our region, of our country, of our culture. Many of us have abiding love for our part of the U.S. because of such small towns.

Yet, we must begrudgingly accept that the changes that have happened will only continue to occur and the thriving small town will go the way of the trading post, the barn dance and the buffalo.

It’s a shame. Small town life, small town values, small town relationships were the standard for our culture in generations past. Now, it seems those things are fading into history.

There was some hope years ago that a wired world would permit white collar workers to live in small towns, to telecommute and to help rejuvenate rural America – a return of folks to the places they fondly remembered from childhood. Sadly, that hasn’t happened. The reality of the conveniences of the big city is simply too strong.

One would like to think that there are factors that will somehow bring about a renaissance of small towns. But for the time being, it seems unlikely and it appears we will lose this tradition as we lost so many. What a shame considering the importance of the work ethic, cooperative value, neighborly decency and simple kindnesses that define small town America.

Long may the folks of Ruso and similar towns love and support their communities. They have much to teach the rest of us.