Sunday, May 17, 2009

The top 10 questions of people considering a move to rural or small-town Missouri

By R.D. Hohenfeldt
Managing Editor, Ozarks Almanac

Most of the people who visit this blog throughout the month are from outside Missouri, as the new map I placed down on the bottom right corner of this page will attest.

I presume most of you "outsiders" are considering becoming Ozarks, or at least Missouri, "insiders" and you're looking for information about the lifestyles, the hunting and fishing, the weather, the gardening, the recreation, and everything else you can think of, that's available. That's research and it is good.

I hope this blog has been of value to you and I hope you'll continue to visit it. I want you to understand that I'm trying to discourage you from moving here. I figure if I can discourage you, then it means you shouldn't move here, and I have done you a valuable service by saving you a lot of heartache and expense.

Most people who live elsewhere and want to move here probably should not, especially those who live in cities and think they want to try "the simple life" of a small town or a small farm. Think about it. Why would you, who have spent the last 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years in the city and have grown accustomed to all the so-called "amenities" of city life, think you can find happiness in a small town or the country? Is it because Andy Griffith's Mayberry looks like a good place to live? Is it because you've been reading Country Living or Romantic Country Living magazines?

Well, I'm going to help you focus your thinking away from all that hocus pocus. Let's get real with the top 10 questions people ask about the locations they're thinking about. I compiled these questons from scores of posts on the Missouri Forum on When I posted the 10 questions together, they created controversy; I guess that's because when seen together, they seem pretty shallow. The forum moderator deleted the thread and locked me out of the forum, so I'll put them here, where they're probably more appropriate.

Here goes with the questions, with my comment on each of them.

1. Is there an active music/club/bar scene in this town? Where do I go to have a drink and hear some good music?
Listen, small towns in Missouri are not Austin. They don't have a Sixth Street district. If you want to go have a drink and listen to music, you're likely going to have to settle for a tavern, beer and a jukebox.

2, What about arts and culture? I can't live without my museum, art gallery or theater fix. Is there an active theater district or arts district?
A town the size of Rolla will have an arts group with monthly showings and a theater (or theatre) for summer plays. For the majority of other towns, the theater district will be limited to a small movie house or maybe just a video rental store.

3. I love diversity. Is there diversity in this community?
We have diversity in rural Missouri. We have some people who are well-off and we have some who aren't. We have town folk and we have country folk. We have Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics and Pentecostals. That's all the diversity we need. Unfortunately, here in Rolla we have people who wear their saggin pants down to show their butt cracks. That's too much diversity.

4, I'm very spiritual, but I don't go to church. Am I going to be hounded by Baptists? (Variations: I'm an atheist... I'm an agnostic ... I'm a wiccan ...)
Well, if inviting you to participate in worshiping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is hounding you, yes, probably. We don't want you to go hell, so we'll probably ask you if you know the Lord. We'll probably also invite you to our church where we have wonderful fellowship dinners, good music get-togethers and youth ministries. It's called being friendly, not hounding. We'll ask you once, and if you decline, we likely won't bother you again. Then you'll complain that we're shunning you.

5. Where do you go for "serious shopping"?
We usually find what we need here in town. Local stores carry an awful lot of stuff. If Wal-Mart or Lowe's doesn't have it here in town, they can order it. If they can't order it, I can order it from a catalog or online. There's lots of other things to get serious about rather than shopping.

6. I'm looking for a quaint town. Are there quaint shops on Main Street?
Used to be. Then the government built the interstate, the car companies started building better cars and folks got more mobile. New people got "serious" about shopping and everyone started going to St. Louis or Kansas City or Springfield to spend their money instead of buying from the quaint shops.

7. I'm very liberal and I'm looking for like-minded liberals. Is this a liberal town?
We're liberal in our love and concern for our family, our church, the community and one another. We're not very liberal about government, taxes and regulations. We're too busy making a living to be liberals. You'll find some liberals among the government employees in town, the school teachers and the social service agencies.

8. I love gourmet dining. What are the best restaurants?
I like that bar in Rolla that serves baked taters and catfish. We've also got a couple of good steakhouses, plus four Chinese places, a couple of Japanese places, three Mexican restaurants, and every fast food joint and pizza parlor you can think of. For some really good chicken fried steak go over to that place in Doolittle with the giant chicken statue in back of an El Camino. Is that what you mean by gourmet dining?

9. Where can I buy high-quality whole, healthy foods like I'm used to buying in my city?
Do like the rest of us do, grow a garden, buy from the farmers market, can, freeze. We've got a couple of quality health-food stores in Rolla, but they're not as big as you're used to in the city.

10. How long will it take to be accepted? Will I fit in? Does this town accept outsiders?
Well, now, really, how long do you think?
We don't have the kind of bar or nightclub you want, the kind of music you want to hear, the kind of theater and culture you expect on a regular basis.
We're not big fans of the kind of diversity you're talking about.
You don't want us to invite you to church.
You're concerned that we don't have enough stores for you to spend your money in, so you're going to head off to the city to spend your real money. Then you'll complain that there aren't enough quaint shops in town.
You'll probably get mad at us because most of us won't support the political party of taxes and regulation.
You turn your nose up at good ole beef, pork, catfish, potatoes and corn served in local restaurants.
And you're too lazy to grow your own healthy food and turn your nose up at our local health food stores.
So whose job is it to assure you of fitting in? Yours or ours?
We're perfectly willing to accept you, but we aren't going to change everything around here to fit your agenda or whims. Do you really want to fit in or do you want us to fit with you?
If it's the latter, rural Missouri probably isn't your best choice for a new home.

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