The town I call home, where I have lived for 57 of my 67 years, has always had a population of around 200.
I like to tell people, “It is more like a club than a town.”
For the last 30 years or so, we have sent out a monthly newsletter telling of upcoming events plus ones that took place in the last 30 days.
This is where I tell people, “It takes that long for anything to happen so we have something put in our paper.”
My job for the town newsletter is to keep track of and report each month’s birthdays and anniversaries of current and former residents.
I have been doing this since the beginning those many years ago.
I always get a smile when I print out September’s birthdays because it is the one with the most names, coming nine months after January, a usually cold month.
Reporting birthdays means I add new arrivals to my list and remove names of those deceased.
Growing up in a small town where you know almost everyone gives me knowledge of the person and some of their background.
But removing a name is part of the job I do not enjoy as it is the last recognition of a person who is no longer here.
I have removed the names of more people than I can remember.
It was strange removing my dad’s name from the birthday list in 2000 and my mother in 2006.
This provides a small insight into what is happening in many small rural towns when more names are being removed than added.
In another 20 years, when my generation of baby boomers has gone, I believe there will be little left of these small towns.
Growing up, our town had a school, church, restaurant, grocery store, bank and a few small businesses.
They provided a way for people to conduct business, buy necessities, and just plain socialize as they would meet each other through the day.
Today, only the church remains. Socializing is done at the elevator where the men meet around the table.
It is the only place in town where it is possible to get a cup of coffee without going to someone’s home.
Another big change to my town is when I was growing up, I knew who lived in almost every house.
Today, I might be able to attach a name to one out of four houses.
I could tell you who lived in that house in the 1950s or 1960s, but today for many of them I could not come up with a name; and if I heard the name, I would still not know who they are or be able to recognize them.
Being a member of our town’s church is the best way to get acquainted. After that, you are pretty much on your own.
There are some people who probably enjoy and prefer their anonymity in a small town, but it does take the sense of community out of the community.
Now that I have identified a problem, do I have a solution? I wish I did.
This is the continuation of a trend that goes back at least 60 years of small towns getting smaller through attrition and consolidation of services.
Even the town newsletter may come to an end someday as the people who volunteer to put it together each month are the same age as I am.
Social institutions and businesses both depend on the next generation to take their places to keep them going.
Besides, someday, someone will be needed to remove my name from the birthday list when I no longer have birthdays.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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