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I don't know how many of you readers out there know what it is like to grow up in a rural/small-town community. Since people who live in cities outnumber people who live out in the boonies I'm going to have to hazard a guess that rural journal-readers are in the minority. So, for you folks out there who never knew the vicissitudes of bucolic life, I'll try to do some 'splainin' whenever I touch on a point that might seem far-fetched.

Geneaology is one of the first orders of rural and small town life. “Oh, you're *Gary's* daughter” is pretty much the standard response whenever my sister of I have to re-introduce ourseves to anyone back home who hasn't seen us since we were in grade school. In fact, as my sister discovered last time she was back visiting our folks, being “Gary's youngest daughter” opened a few doors to her and put her on familiar and informal footing with some people who might otherwise just have regarded her as some young punk girl. Now, before you get to thinking our dad is some kind of bigwig, let me explain. Our dad is just another guy–he has a good local reputation for a number of reasons: he's friendly and laid-back (if somewhat garrulous), he's *the* foreign car mechanic for that part of the state, he always keeps beer and soda in the fridge at the back of the garage because people are always dropping by. Now these are all great things (and they sure don't hurt his popularity in the community!), but not the reason being his daughter counts for anything among the neighbors. Being somebody, anybody's kid means you aren't a stranger. If you aren't a stranger, people will treat you a lot more warmly. There is a connection. Even if, not moments before, the person didn't know you from Adam, once they know who your folks are, then you're okay. You're like an auxiliary community member. So, if you have a stake in the local socio-genetic geography, you're good.

If you know your way around the area's physical geography, you're even better off, because rural direction-giving is probably something entirely different from urban direction giving. For one thing, directions are given with reference to cardinal orientation. If you don't have a good grasp of North, South, East, and West, in practical terms, devoid of familiar landmarks, then you probably aren't going to get anywhere because this is what rural direction-giving advice sounds like:

“You'll need to go north a couple-three more miles and take that dirt road that forks off east where the old schoolhouse used to be. Follow the old school road for another five miles or so–you'll pass the turnoffs for the Belknap place, Wildy's old house, and the junction of the Marsland road. Just keep on past the Marsland turnoff until you see the three big windmills. The next turnoff going south, take it. When you get to the place with the blue mailbox with the cow-cutouts on it, you're there.”

You really need to have a knowledge of old homestead claims, landmarks that haven't existed in over a generation, the cardinal directions in practical use, and a good, working odometer. A willingness to ask the next person you see out making windrows with a swather doesn't hurt either. Most rural folks are willing enough to give you directions, and by local reckoning, these are perfectly sensible directions, and as So-And-So's kid, they feel it ought to be old news to you where Kresl's slaughter barn is located in relation to Stumpfs' new stock dam.

Pretty much everything rural relates to either geneaology or geography. In a gossip session, the teller of tales will usually reel through short geneological profiles for all of the characters on the list “Well, you know Helen Crawbel (she used to be a Frietsche) I ran into her up to Schmidts' grocery and she said the little Esslinger girl–Jennifer–you know, Ed and Jackie's oldest, wasn't coming home for Christmas this year, 'cause she'd gotten some big job offer out in San Diego and so she had to go out…” Oh, yeah, if you are somebody's kid, to the neighbors you're still a kid, even when you've been grown, moved off, and married for years. I'm sure I'm still “the li'l Davis gal” to plenty of neighbors back home, though I am grown and married.

More on rural life later. I need to go run my Saturday errands.

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