A WEEK AGO, my husband and I drove into Millville, population 182, located along the Zumbro River in Wabasha County in southeastern Minnesota. We were on one of our Sunday afternoon drives. We choose a general direction in which to travel from our Faribault home. Then we just go, atlas in hand,
Whatever we discover, we discover. And, even if we do not find anything seemingly extraordinary, we celebrate the ordinary, the everyday, the small towns and farms that hold our hearts. For, although Randy and I have lived in Faribault, population around 24,000, for 29 years, we still long for the land, for small-town life, for Redwood and Morrison counties and the farms upon which we were raised.
Perhaps you, too, were raised on a farm, now live in town, and understand that longing, that forever rooted to the land connection.
That said, I highly recommend a Sunday afternoon drive.
And I also recommend viewing (click here) Minnesota Public Radio’s Ground Level project, “Fighting for an American Countryside,” which published awhile ago. I watched the first video clip on Friday and was moved to tears. The promo summary reads:
People in rural Minnesota are battling small-town decline with determination, resourceful thinking, and unwavering belief.
I wish that was true for all rural areas, but it is not. I’ve seen all too many shuttered buildings, empty Main Streets, neglected personal properties in too many small towns. Times are tough. Young folks are leaving; the population is aging. It’s difficult, sometimes, to survive the economic and other challenges unique to rural areas.
Some small towns can rise to these challenges like those featured in the MPR project. Others lack the resources, the leadership, the creativity to do so.
Yet, all of these small towns, whether in growth or decline, are to be valued. For they are home to someone. Or they were home to someone, like Randy and me, empty nesters who now take Sunday afternoon drives and end up in places like Millville.
When Randy pulled over in Millville to check the map, I hopped out and photographed a farmer leaning on his pick-up truck near a wagon brimming with corn. It’s a typical small-town scene this time of year.
Then I walked just up the road and snapped a picture of the gun shop signage before we aimed out of town, and then turned around a few miles out. Apparently we were on the wrong route.
We followed a tractor and wagon, winding at a snail’s pace down the hill back into Millville.
And then, as we drove by, I photographed a curb-appealing brick house I’d noticed earlier. I love the wrap around porch, the strong lines, the neighborly appeal of this home.
Past the grain bins, again, and the farmer waiting by his truck, we turned and found the “right road,” although there are really no “wrong roads” on a Sunday afternoon drive.
Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling