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Why I Want To Write About Small Towns

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probably die in a small town
Oh, those small communities
All my friends are so small town
My parents live in the same small town
My job is so small town
Provides little opportunity.
– John Mellencamp, 1985.
I don’t know whether or not Mellencamp’s iconic song is autobiographical, but it certainly has a ring of truth to it. As a life-long denizen of small-town Montana, I have a love-hate relationship with these sometimes baffling and tight-knit communities.
Wherever I travel I encounter people who are fascinated with the idea of visiting Montana, but horrified by the idea of living in a “city” of fewer than 2000 people. However, I didn’t appreciate just how intimidating (or just unappealing?) small town life appeared to townies until my brother Jim retired from the Army and proposed moving his family to Montana. His wife Sarah gamely agreed to the venture, but balked at the notion of actually settling in our little town of Forsyth. A confirmed techie, I gather her main objection was to living a hundred miles from a Best Buy, but the Walmart Question (how far is to the nearest one?) is more common. They compromised and moved to Billings, which boasts one Best Buy and two Walmarts.
That got me thinking about how city life and rural life differ in 21st century America (i.e., the age of Amazon and the Internet), and how living in Montana differs from living anywhere else in the country or the world. I admittedly have very little experience with living elsewhere, so I would welcome specific questions you may have about living and working in Montana.

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