I've heard of all sorts of ways to determine if you live in a town or a city. One formula says that if the population of your burg is less than the elevation added to the founding date then you live in a small town. Others have suggested that if the players on your high school football team have to play both offense and defense and you have ugly cheerleaders due to lack of selection pressure, then you live in a small town. (I say if you even have a high school you are not a small town.) Of course, if there is a Starbucks or McDonalds in the vicinity you don't live in a small town. Likewise, if you have separate telephone books for residences and business or you have a daily newspaper you are a bona fide metropolis.
While these parameters may be cute I don't think they are necessarily correct. Take Martin, South Dakota, for example. If I were to tell you it was the county seat, was incorporated and holds an annual big shindig and rodeo you might think it's a city. But if I told you that only about a thousand people live there you'd probably say it was a small town. And it is, but not because the population total is less than its zip code.
Martin, South Dakota, is a small town because small town people live there. Like the receptionist at a local doctor's office. My buddy Russell introduced himself to her and explained that he was an appraiser and that he needed to inspect the building which had recently been converted into a medical clinic. The receptionist was the only one in the office and after awhile she said to Russell, “I need to go get the mail at the post office. Would you watch the phone for a few minutes?” Russell said, “Sure,” and proceeded to inspect the offices which included three rooms full of enough drugs to provide a wonderful retirement for Russell. There were no locks and everything was wide open. Russell finished his appraisal, the receptionist returned from the post office and no one thought this experience was unusual in any way.
Then there's the banker. And yes, Martin does have a bank. One day Russell went into the bank to get an appraisal order but there was no one in sight. Not a single desk was occupied and it was during business hours. So Russell went downstairs and there was the bank president up on a ladder with a bucket of paint and a brush. The two lady loan officers, with their hair wrapped in towels, also had brush and roller in hand. The bank president said to Russell, “The bank needed painting, the bids we got were too high and things were kind of slow so we just decided to paint it ourselves.”
I dare you to find a bank in New York, Chicago or LA that was painted by the president and his employees.
In addition to the bank and doctor's offices, Martin, South Dakota, also has a grocery store. No, it's not a Sam's Club or a Safeway but I've been in it and it sells the same food as the big chains do. And in a much friendlier environment.
The airlines had lost my luggage yet again and because I can get to smelling pretty ripe after awhile, I needed to pick up a few masculine personal hygiene products. I grabbed a shopping basket and started filling it with shaving cream, a razor, Old Spice, a comb, after-shave, Chap Stick and other assorted manly things.
I left my shopping basket briefly and when I turned back around it was gone. The town's old maid had mistakenly taken it for hers and proceeded to fill it up with food and frilly feminine things. It wasn't until she was checking out and the clerk rang up her shaving cream, Old Spice and razor that she realized she had the wrong basket. But it was too late. The damage had already been done. The entire municipality just knew the old maid was shacking up with someone before the sun set that night.
Now that, my friends, is a small town!