Big Dreams, Small Towns

Map dot. One horse town. Stop sign on a blacktop. The backbone of America. Small town, USA.

There seems to be a common misconception that big dreams can’t succeed in small town, rural America, and while that may have held true to some extent fifty years ago, it doesn’t hold up in today’s internet age. When I started Heart of the Midwest, I had a ton of people ask me where my storefront was going to be because where would I possibly have one in the entire county that would get the traffic it needed to survive? With internet and social media, I’m able to run a shop and share my farming story from my tiny corner of the universe.

Speaking of my tiny little corner of the universe…

Good ole Dana has been around since the 1870s and not much has changed since then. Just kidding…kind of. At around 400 people (I think?) it’s not exactly the burgeoning metropolis my grandma talks about in the memories of her teenage years, but it’s not too bad. The most famous person to come from the first town you hit when you enter the Hoosier state from the west is Ernie Pyle, the WWII correspondent. (Yes, we all know that was eighty years ago, but he’s all we’ve got so we’re hanging on. He was actually pretty cool though so I highly recommend reading his biography and/or visiting our museum to learn more!) And speaking of the famous writer, we also have the Ernie Pyle/Dana Fireman’s Festival every August, and lemme tell ya what, that’s the biggest social event of the year. I mean, I’m still hanging on to the fact that I was Miss Ernie Pyle Festival 2011….don’t believe me? See below.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things I miss about living in a bigger city (like being less than an hour and a half away from the nearest Target), but you just can’t beat a small town. When someone is sick, the town rallies around them. When you’re walking down the road back to the pickup after moving a piece of equipment, someone stops to give you a ride. When everyone’s favorite farmer passes away, the whole town shows up at the funeral home.

As someone who has always hated stepping outside of her comfort zone, knowing that I had not only my friends’ and family’s support but that I had the whole town rooting for me gave me that little extra push I needed. Moving away for college, going overseas for a semester, taking a job in another state...I knew that even if I didn’t see them at the restaurant uptown every day at noon, they were still behind me. And I know that no matter where I end up, these small town folks will still be supportive just as they know that I’m there for them (or at least I hope they do!).

I know that my little hometown isn’t perfect; I’m not trying to paint it as a fairytale village. Even since I was a kid, plenty of businesses and people have left and plenty of trouble and drugs have moved in. The auction house crumbled, the grocery store and florist shop burnt, and the bank and tavern both closed. However, as much as all of those things could be considered pretty significant setbacks, they don’t take away from why I love this town. I truly believe it’s the people that make this town worthwhile not the things. Really, really good people who care about their neighbors.

So wherever you may be, whether it be a village or the big city, I hope you find your “small town” group of people because I’m a firm believer that big dreams grow best in small towns.

19 comments

  • Small Towns
    Every summer our vacation was to go up to Minnesota to the farm. The local town was Bertha. 300 pop. This is the town where they roll up the sidewalks at 5pm The best part of this experience was going into the cafe and later the tavern and not living there they all knew who I was and who my family was. “Your so and so’s kid arn’t you?” Loved and hated it. it takes a neighbor hood to raise a kid. So if I made a mistake the town knew and in minutes my father knew too. Now that social media in it rarest form.
    Keep it up !!

    Todd
  • Hi Erin,

    Really enjoying your YouTube channel and your blog, great stuff!
    I was raised in a small country town in the Mallee region of Victoria, Australia and I still believe it’s the very best way to grow up. Everyone knew each other and looked out for one another, something you just don’t get in a big city. I learnt that honesty and a great work ethic were the passport to a good name for yourself, and this led to jobs and a bright future. I still carry the same philosophy with me today and it has stood me well over the years. I loved fishing and shooting with my father, gardening with my mother and working on local farms for pocket money, helping with shearing sheep and harvest, fencing, all the fun stuff!. I loved the clean air, peace and quiet and walking out of the house on a clear night to look up at a sea of stars. I learnt to be resilient and self-reliant. I think city kids miss out on so much these days…
    Please keep up the great work and I’ll look forward to your new videos and posts.
    All the best for the future for you and yours.
    Dave.

    David Walton
  • I came from a small town that has faded badly in the last 10-20 years. The health of the town was measured by the number of bars that it supported and now even these have closed. The main street had many businesses and these are gone too. No jobs meant that many young moved after finishing high school. I can count, almost, on one hand the number of grads left in the town. I guess that is progress?

    charles wintle
  • Love your utub. I had to pull weeds to on farm in mn. Your dad can duck hunt or deer hunt on our 1000 acre farm by Alexandria mn. Paul is dad. 7019898609

    Carl Thronson
  • Erin, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED your article about the very best town in the entire world, Dana, Indiana! I certainly agree. The community stands strong…even when the times are tough.
    And, by the way, I am very proud of you.

    Connie Adams

Leave a comment