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Understanding our differences
Drift from a Driftless Place
JOHN GIBBS finished up his western adventures at a Farm-n-Fleet in Las Vegas, browsing the hat section. He'd been on the lookout for a good cowboy hat, and no surprise, he found his dream chapeau in the Wild, Wild West.

GAYS MILLS - It wasn’t the best of times, but it wasn’t the worst of times, either.  It was just sort of normal times. People were in their own grooves and involved in their own lives, not concerned with what didn’t affect them personally. But the world got more interdependent and smaller with communication, technology, and globalism. Events that affected them seemed to come, more and more, from outside their immediate area, penetrating their existence wherever they happened to live.

Two towns lay in adjoining valleys. One town was small, a village really, home to just a few hundred souls. The other could probably be called a city and had several thousand residents. Some of the people from the village drove to the city to work every day, an hour’s drive. Most of the villagers went to the city at least occasionally, doctor appointments, shopping, etc. Some of the city dwellers drove down to the area where the village was to work as well, drawn by unique job opportunities.

The village occupied a scenic site, surrounded by wooded, sheltering hills.  A river ran though the settlement, taking its time as it snaked through the valley, pulled gently by gravity. There were several small and irregular shaped fields among the hills, carved out by early pioneers. Some were still farmed, many were not. Mostly, the land was too steep to farm and was used for passive timber production and occasional hunting. 

One native noted that “scenery made very thin soup,” but people took pride in their surroundings and often found themselves just looking at their rugged, folded landscape, like people who live near water constantly gaze out on the lake, river, or ocean in front of them.


The city was built on a flat alluvial shelf that a larger river had made, was still making, in the bigger valley. Once in the city, it looked like Everytown USA and people lost sight of the landscape. The fast food franchises, shopping malls, big box stores, and traffic drew your eyes away from the scenic bluffs that looked down on the broad valley. People in the city had conveniences, shopping, access to things, jobs, restaurants, medical care, entertainment, but they lacked scenic beauty to gaze at.

Was the village life better, safer? Perhaps not, but it was different and had many advantages. People in the village tended to know each other and care about each other. They recognized each other and felt close, like a tribe. Drivers waved at each other. Things moved slower in the small town and the people joked about it.  

“I just don’t see how people in the city can live there,” the village residents would say. “All that traffic and hustle and bustle.”

City dwellers who visited the village, usually in good weather, commented about the country life. 

“What do they do out here all the time?” The city residents would wonder. “It’s a long way to the mall.”  

Different ways of living, different outlooks. People get used to anything. Seeing how the other half lives gives you perspective and a