The tiny towns that dot the landscape of every rural region in the country provide endless fodder and perpetuate many a myth and misconception, the kind of stuff urban legends are made of.
I can only speak to the Rocky Mountains because I grew up in Wyoming where “men are men and the sheep are scared,” and have spent most of my adult life in Idaho where potato trucks have been known to tip over, spill thousands of pounds of spuds onto highways, and force temporary closures.
I’ll share what I know.
I can also say with 100 percent certainty that the wide open spaces we are known for promise to embrace anyone brave enough to endure the howling wind.
Here are 10 misconceptions about people who live in rural areas:
1) We are all farmers
As much as I love home-grown food, I wouldn’t know the first thing about tilling the land. Too bad for me.
What’s more unfortunate is the fact that farms and other rural businesses are dwindling, which means the lack of job availability is driving country people into larger cities.
After the recession, deep poverty hit across the board, making rural life unsustainable for a large chunk of the 46 million people who live in rural communities.
But rural tradition is still strong in Idaho, especially during the fall potato harvest, when students in the eastern part of the state get a two-week break for “spud harvest.”
Yep, that’s right.
Kids get to miss school because farmers rely on the extra, strong hands to help with the potato crop, which will eventually be turned into delicious french fries.
2) We tip cows for fun
No, we don’t.
Because it can’t be done.
Cows weigh a thousand pounds or more and don’t sleep standing up.
If you want a good kick to the gut and risk death, go ahead and stand behind or next to a cow while trying to tip it over.
3) We are uneducated
Just because the mainstream media attributed Trump’s presidential win to ‘uneducated rural America’ (the people who came out in droves to vote), doesn’t mean it’s true.
Rural areas are filled with all types of yahoos – from Harvard-educated yoga instructors, to small business owners and blue-collar workers, to freelance writers and tech gurus.
4) We are racist rednecks
Here’s a stereotype that runs deep and can’t be summed up in one paragraph.
Let’s just say we don’t all accuse Mexico of sending rapists and criminals over the border, or call for a complete halt to Muslims entering the country.
We have been known to drive out white supremacist colonies, however.
5) We don’t know how to use the internet
For eight years, I worked for a thriving e-commerce company that is well-known nationwide for its booklets of admission tickets to the most iconic attractions in big cities.
It was/is a highly coveted place of employment in a town of 3,000 people.
Because millions of ticket booklets are sold online, it’s kind of mandatory to know how to use the internets to be employed there.
6) We are survivalist nuts
While possessing canning and freezing techniques are great skills to have, not everyone is that resourceful.
Not everyone stocks their basements with bottled water, cans of beans, Spam, fruit cocktail and powdered Tang.
Maybe we should, though, with the way the world is heading.
7) We all shoot guns
We don’t all shoot and kill animals in the woods for meat.
The hunters I know are very respectful of the animal and the land.
Poachers are considered bad people.
The gun menacingly placed on the rack in the back of the pickup always intimidated me.
Can’t they just buy a handgun and put it in the glove box like everyone else?
8) We don’t have indoor plumbing
This is actually partially true.
It’s crazy to think that nearly 63,000 households in this country do not have complete plumbing.
This means 1.6 million people are living without indoor plumbing, including toilet, tub or shower, or running water.
Many Americans can still remember what it’s like to use an outhouse.
Relics of the past, outhouses are now cute little storage sheds with the crescent moon carved neatly into the door.
9) We use farmersonly.com to find dates
We find our mates like everyone else – in bars, at the gym, and on the internet.
What’s funny is I’ve seen people on Tinder making the joke that they thought they were joining farmersonly.com.
The joke is on them: They are on Tinder.
10) We ride our horses to the bars
Ok, this is true.
I’ve seen it in remote, rural towns, places where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid used to raise hell.
Although a horse probably isn’t the best designated driver, cowboys have been known to tie their horses to the hitching post in front of the bar.
Why else would a hitching post exist in front of a bar?
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Cover Photo Credit: Robb North/Flickr (CC By 2.0)