You Know You're in a Small Town When...

In the past three weeks of living back in a rural Iowa town I've observed things I didn't particularly take note of when I actually lived here.

In no particular order, here are 15 things that you can only find in a small town:

1) As you drive into town you're greeted by things like giant cattle, and Hollywood-esque signs.
2) Every small town has a "claim to fame." Ours happens to be the birthplace of Donna Reed (It's A Wonderful Life). Many things around town are based upon that singular claim - hence the "It's a Wonderful Life" water tower and Hollywood-esque sign.
3) You give directions according to landmarks, not street names.

4) Some of the best pizza in town comes from a gas station (Casey's or Pronto, anyone?).
5) The bars are also some of the best places to get a meal.

6) The local Dairy Queen is a big deal - huge deal - and you will see a familiar face regardless of the time of day.
7) It's not just DQ where you'll run into people you know. You run into people you know everywhere: the grocery store, the jewelry store, the consignment store, the hair salon, the gas station, everywhere.

8) Walmart is basically the only place to shop. Though you know everyone in town, you don't have a clue who a single person is in Walmart.
9) Running a 5k will literally take you through the whole town, and part of the country, too.
There's that "It's A Wonderful Life", again.
10) You can literally get anywhere in town in 10 minutes or less - unless you have to stop for a train.

11) Many local business still don't accept credit cards, but you can write a check!

12) Go to the local watering hole and all the regulars have nicknames. Most people don't know what the regulars real names actually are.

13) Speaking of watering holes... $20 goes a looooooong way.

14) Pickups are the standard vehicle. And, the trucks aren't just for show, they're actually used for their intended purposes.

15) You can't drive down a single street, or turn a single corner without conjuring up a memory or two.

It's funny, when I was younger these were things about home I couldn't *wait* to get away from. Now, it's because most of these reason I can't wait to come back.

To my small town friends, am I missing anything? Are there things about *your* home town that make it uniquely yours?


  1. I've never been to Denison, Iowa, and I've always lived in Omaha. I think living in a small town would drive me a little crazy personally, although I don't think I could live in a major city like LA or NY either.

    Although the way your describing Denison sounds nice, because it's a tight knit community and *feels* like home. Casey's does have some good pizza, there's a few around here ;)

  2. I LOVE this post. so true about the community I grew up (and still work) in and the place I know call home. I wouldnt trade small town living for anything.
    In a town down the highway, tehy pride themselves in being the home of a statue of the worlds largest turkey, I know most street names but its a lot easier to say "by the school/gas station" or "the street the so-and-so lives on", I now like 2 blocks from Caseys and it is by far our absolute favorite pizza! in our little community, you know almost EVERYONE in Walmart, seriously impossible to go there and not see someone you know or at lesast recognize! seriously, you hit the nail on the head! it really is all about the simple things :) and of course as in any small town, if you dont know what you were doing, someone else does! hahaha

  3. Wow, most places won't/don't take credit card yet? That's really interesting!

  4. The lake town my husband grew up in (NOT where we're building) the best pizza and fried chicken were both at the same gas station -- and it is good! So crazy I never would have thought that otherwise! :)

  5. I feel like you just described my hometown to a tee!! How funny. Casey's pizza...yep. Wal-Mart and DQ...yep. Pickups and water towers...oh yeah. :)

  6. I grew up in Kansas City, but I did live in Salina, KS, for 6 years. This post reminds me of that town. It was Green Lantern pizza there (although Casey's did buy them out). I couldn't wait to move away from there, but now I find myself missing it.

  7. The town I grew up in is so small, it doesn't even have a claim to fame. I was totally nodding my head along with everything else though. Especially the thing about Walmart. Ours was a Super Walmart, so it was open 24/7. Before I moved, I actually started doing my grocery shopping around 11:00pm because I knew I could get in and out without running into a million people who wanted to talk.

    I miss parts of living in a small town. I miss how calm and quiet it is. I miss how genuinely friendly everyone was. You certainly don't get any of those things living in the city.

  8. We have an underpass that goes under the railroad tracks - the tracks dissect the town exactly in half so they put the underpass in to allow cars (and people) to get thru if a train was going thru or stopped in town (they don't stop anymore but used to). My boys love it and always beg me to honk the horn while going thru -- s/t I did many a time as a new driver in my teens!

    Another "You're probably from Washington if you remember..." item is the 4 lanes. We used to 'cruise the 4's" on Friday nights. It was bumper to bumper! We had 2 places we could loop through, it was a blast! Now they don't do that anymore and the 4's are now a 2 lane street w/ a turning lane the entire way down it. Womp womp. :(

    Great list! All true!

  9. I grew up in KC, a big city by comparison to my husband's home town of 200. Two things stand out in your post that are oh so true about my husband's home town or the next town over which is a whopping 3000. How far 20.00 goes in a bar and everyone has a nickname!! It's been fun following your posts of your time in the midwest. Great memories. Happy 4th!

  10. This post made me giggle. When we were preparing to move, we had to live with my inlaws in a super rural farming town. I loathed being in that town for many of the same reasons you listed. Yet, now that we are in the city and away, I miss a lot of those same things. Perception is everything, I suppose.

  11. Casey's Pizza. Yum, yum! I'd say many small towns that doesn't have a DQ have a little ice cream shop with it's own version of the blizzard. At ours is a blitz. Another small town ice cream shop I went to had a tornado.

  12. Gotta love that Casey's taco pizza! :)

    I have always wondered where you were from since I knew you were from Iowa. I grew up in Rockwell City - an hour north of Denison. People always say "Oh, the town with all the 'don't pick up hitchhikers' signs, right?" because we have a minimum security prison outside of town. I lived elsewhere for ten years, but after having kids, moving back home and living a bit of a simpler life didn't sound as horrible as it did when I was 19. So here we are.

    Glad you are enjoying your trip back. :)

  13. I didn't grow up in a small town, but your post makes it sound so fun! I feel like I missed out. Glad you are enjoying your visit home!

  14. This so reminds me of my grandparents town in Arkansas! The DQ was the only chain fast food they had and the only store was the Walmart! And the only thing to do in the summer was the watering hole! I remember the first time my grandma said watering hole.. I thought she was crazy! It is nice to visit places like though so, so many memories! Loved this post!