Rural Wit and Wisdom: Community

Rural communities are built on working together. Understand how rural community identity is formed through hard labor and good neighbors who help each other with all tasks from butchering to barn raising.

| May 2012

Neighbors in rural communities help one another. It’s part of the territory, and working together provides the important opportunity for storytelling and laughter. Rural Wit and Wisdom (Fulcrum Publishing, 2012) by Jerry Apps is a collection of Old-Timer advice and stories on the value of community and working together during threshing season, quilting bees, harvesting and many more events and seasons. The following excerpt on community advice is taken from Chapter 2, “Community.”   

It is commonly believed that rural people are loners and prefer living and working by themselves, away from the noise and confusion of urban areas. There is some truth to the statement; many people do live in rural areas because they prefer the country to the city. But they are far from loners; this part of the statement is pure myth. Rural people from the earliest settlement days to the present are models of community, of working together, of sharing and caring for each other. During pioneer days on the farm, families could not have survived without the help of their neighbors. Neighbors worked together, played together, worshipped together, and, yes, grieved together when someone died, a barn burned, or some other calamity visited someone in the community. Farm women came together to make quilts, a practical as well as social activity. Farmers helped each other with the harvest, with sawing wood for the ever-hungry woodstoves that heated farm homes, with pig butchering, and with barn raisings. Whenever a task on the farm required more than a couple people, neighbors gathered to help. Often called bees, these gatherings of neighbors made the work lighter as well as allowed neighbors to know each other better and appreciate each other’s differences and similarities.

Rural communities had identities, too. The one-room country school, from the 1840s to the 1960s (a few still operate as schools today, but most are either destroyed or are private homes and museums), often provided the focal point for rural communities and gave the community its name and its identity: Willow Grove, Pine View, Smith, Shady Valley, and many more.


• If you think you have a bucket of problems, try picking up your neighbor’s bucket.

• Love thy neighbor, but make sure your fences are in good order.

• Neighbors are always there, even when you don’t need them.

Tom Michel
6/6/2012 6:07:14 PM

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