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7 Things Small Towns Do Better

Posted on Tuesday December 08, 2015 at 01:49PM

I live in Carlyle, SK. Canada. It is a very pretty little town in the southeast corner. I was raised just a few kilometers down the road in the village of Manor. The combined population of both communities and all the surrounding farms might be around three thousand, with several hundred more once you add in the population of White Bear, just down the road a bit.

I have only lived in the city in short bursts. I enjoy my stays when I visit. One of the best nights of my life happened in the City of Regina. It started with a candle lit dinner, a rented car and driver, tickets to Stuart MacLean's Christmas show, and ended in the Hotel Saskatchewan. It was the first married Christmas with my husband, whom I fondly refer to as the mister. We love Regina. We just love small town living a little more.

Given the kind of work I do, it is completely possible for me to work from anywhere as long as I can connect to the internet. We choose to live in Carlyle, because we live a dream life here.  And Carlyle, has things that are important to us, that you cannot get everywhere, like an official community plan, and a sustainable infrastructure plan. I am really impressed given the population is under 2000.

Here are the 7 things small towns do better, in no particular order, in my own humble opinion:

1. Ease of transportation.
I
can walk anywhere I need to go. I live a block off of main street. One grocery store is less than a two minute walk, and another less than a five minute walk. Everything I need is an easy walk. There is no Walmart, (something that doesn't bother me at all) and I can buy presents made from local crafters from my Facebook Account. Last month my gas bill for my car was under $150.00. I do not pay for parking.

2. Access to food that is good for you.
Jack brings me farm eggs and honey If I am not home, he leaves them on my dryer. If I forget to pay, he catches me the next time. I buy our meat from local producers. Pork, beef and chicken are all available here. We pay the local producer who raised it, and we pay the local business who gets it ready for our freezer. Our beef came to about $3.70 a pound and the pork came to about $4.50 a pound. Locally grown. Our potatoes were grown at our local farmer's market, and I processed a lot of spaghetti squash. I could have frozen all I needed, except I  am on the east coast for the month of July, but with a little bit of planning, and a commitment to eating what is in season, you really could have all you need here.

3. Raise money.
A committed group of local citizens can generate money faster than bunnies make babies. If you want something done, get a local committee. If they are fired up about something, make no mistake, it is going to happen. As an added bonus the fundraisers are a terrific source of entertainment. That improves everybody's quality of life. If you have a household tragedy, you can count on your community to have your back. Small towns are really wonderful like that.

4. Provide things to do.
I am fairly certain that the Stones are never coming to Carlyle...an so yes, there are lots of things that we cannot do here. If you want to experience the Tattoo Convention in Vegas, you are going to have to go to Vegas. But, if you live here, there are so many things you can do if you apply yourself a bit. There are more than 20 volunteer groups right in Carlyle. Your community will have lots to choose from as well.  Most of them fund raise, and host events. If going out is not your thing, you can bring entertainment in. Many people, us included, host house concerts. There are sports and recreational events, and you could put together an itinerary pretty easily if you wanted to have things to do.

5. Helps you know your neighbors.
You know the kids coming to your door to sell you almonds or to raise money for the school are really raising money for their school. You know this because you watched those kids grow up across the street from you. The ones we support do their own fundraising. We set aside a little extra for the little girls across the street because they are so polite and so appreciative. Their parents taught them manners. That pays off in our house.

If you get stuck in your driveway a neighbor will help you get your car out. Not much of an issue so far this year, but I have had people periodically rock my car out of an icy spot or a snow bank pretty much since I learned to drive. I'm not that bad of a driver, but here in Saskatchewan, sometimes a snow bank can grow around your car while you are in the store, or the ice can just kind of grab your tire and pitch you into the ditch. I've always gotten the car out because there are neighbors around that know the exact timing of pushing and giving it gas to get the car rocking off the icy bits. Now, if my sister Tree reads this, you will know because you will hear her snort in derision from there...she never gets stuck in the first place, but I am known in my family as a 'girly girl' who doesn't even know how to change her own oil. I am unrepentant and unwilling to learn. YAY neighbors.

6. Builds beautiful friendships.
I have great friends here, some I have known since childhood. I have friends from all over the place, and I love them all. But my friends that live here with me, in my little town, are accessible. Every Sunday that we are home and where it can work, I have supper with some of my favorite people. Like an extended family we love each other in a way that shares our histories, makes memories and only happens with regular contact. Sometime we play board games, sometimes we just sit and talk. I usually make dessert and we take turns cooking the main meal...one Sunday here, another there. Sometimes a decadent butter pound cake, with home made rum sauce, sometimes rice krispie treats. No matter, it is the company that is the thing. Then there are my girlfriends, and I love them all. We get together often, in small groups and in large groups and we have fun. Sometimes a show, next week to celebrate the season. One showed up out of the blue last night to bring me a box of chocolate covered cherries, like she has every year since mom died, because that is what mom did. My sister does that too. I hope they never stop. Community. We all have our people.

7. Create safety.
I know, I know. Crime happens everywhere. But here, when my girls snuck out, there were maybe three places they could be. My biggest worry about their safety was to make sure they didn't become smokers. I told my girls if they got through high school and did not smoke, I would give them each 1,000.00. Then I offered all of their friends $100.00 if they could prove the girls smoked. I had to pay off two of them...the third one confessed under duress from her sisters.

We tried to warn our kids against stranger danger. There were thankfully, not a lot of examples we could draw upon, and when I asked one daughter what she should say if a stranger offered her candy, she said..."just a minute, I have to go get my sister"...I knew we were going to have to deal with it differently. Maybe I was naïve than, but I felt safe raising my girls in Manor. Bad things have happened there, and here as they do everywhere, but I never worried about that then.

Not a part of the list necessarily, but the biggest reason I live here, is many of my family live here, and many who no longer live here still come home. Tree, Tater, Tan-Tan and Badabedee are my sisters. They are my most honest critics and my biggest fans, and more fun than you can ever imagine.

Picture this: When I landed in the hospital in the spring, they all showed up for my birthday at RGH...helium balloons, and prezzies...Tree, wrapped her leg up over the curtain intended for my roommate's privacy, singing a breathy Marilyn Monroe version of Happy Birthday Mr. President...we laughed so much. They were all there, and I laughed so hard I thought I was going to need surgery, so to give me a break they left and took the mister for supper. Right after they left, I received two texts from the mister. "HELP", followed by "I thought you LOVED me!!" He said later he never laughed so much, and he is pretty sure we can never return to Red Lobster.

Both Tater and Tree live in Alida, another small town not far from here. I love Alida. Let me tell you why. I played in a band for well over a decade, and in all that time I had never been to our drummer Hal's house. Hal also lives in Alida. One night we were booked to play in Alida, and Hal being a gentleman, offered to let me use their house to get ready for the gig. I was grateful. I've put my pantyhose standing up in a community hall bathroom before, and it takes a fair bit of contortion, so happily I walked off to Hal's, waved at the folks playing video games, said "I'm here to use your shower" and was directed down the hall. When I got back to start the show, there was Hal wondering where the hell I'd gotten off to. He had gone home to wait for me and I never arrived. I went to the wrong house. Do that in the city and see what happens. I still laugh when I think about it.

They say familiarity breeds contempt. I see that when I see people use social media to cut down their home towns and focus on the limitations that occur in small populations. I pity them. They lost the lesson. Sure enough, it isn't a lifestyle suited to everyone. There are pros and cons. But we do not live here because we are stuck, uneducated buffoons. We live here because we want to, because we value our way of life. I believe it is a lifestyle worth preserving. And you know what learned most about living in a small town? There is community, with a cast of characters you will never every forget.

Author: Solomon Matthewson Consulting

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Newcomers to Carlyle

Nice to hear such positive experiences about Carlyle ... but what if you are a newcomer that never grew up in Carlyle, or in a small town, or even in Saskatchewan. My daughter came to live in Carlyle over a year ago with her spouse who landed a job in town. She does not know another soul in town except for her spouse. Please, tell us how she can meet people in Carlyle ...it has been very lonely for her.

Posted on Saturday December 19, 2015 at 07:42PM by C. Kuz

I would love to meet her and show her around

You can reach me cell or text at 306 575 8330 and I am happy to show her around.

Posted on Saturday December 19, 2015 at 09:40PM by Lorri Matthewson

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