The Yarthur Files

Go West, Young Man!

Monday, August 6, 2007
10:12 PM CT
After visiting a small town in western Nebraska, about , and how that can affect their personality and identity.

So I'm currently on return flight from Denver to Minneapolis. Our weekend was spent in the small town of Sidney, NE, where we (the wife and I) had an interview with Cabela's. It was a fun experience, and the first time either of us have been so strongly courted by a possible employer.

It's not small, it's cozy.

It was a fun experience. Sidney is a nice little town, situated about 15 miles north of the NE/CO border, and about 60 miles West of the NE/WY border. The town sports a population of about 6,500. Nestled at the edge of the sandhills, you have a lot of cattle, wheat, and millet farming, as well as the headquarters to The World's Foremost Outfitter.

Though some may wonder why you would want to move to such an isolated area (everything in that region is about an hour from everything else), it actually is a lot better than it may look on paper. You're within a day-trip's drive to Denver and Cheyenne, with the likes of Boulder and Ft. Collins not too much further (to say nothing of such places as Scottsbluff, North Platte, Kearney, and a few other cities you probably haven't heard of). Rapid City (and Mt. Rushmore/Custer State Park) aren't that far away, either.

As for Sidney itself, it is a small, farming community, and suffers several of the same problems as other such communities. Houses are aging, as is a good chunk of the population, there's a collection of Mom & Pops that have clearly been struggling against the local WalMart and the development surrounding that, and the classic combination of uncooperative weather and fickle markets has always made agriculture a shaky foundation for any economy. But there's a great deal of potential in the little town. The Cabela's HQ provides a great stream of “fresh” monies (as opposed to the same money circulating within the town continuously), and there is a good deal of development either underway or in the works.

Those awkward teenage years.

Sidney is obviously undergoing some transitions. Cabela's hasn't been expanding too agressively until it went public in 2004, so the new revenue streams haven't had much time to take effect, but big plans are underway, and in as little as 5 years, you'll probably see some significant differences.

While this sort of development is good, nay, vital to such communities, it also affects the identity and personality of the community in major ways, at least in my opinion. Usually, the town tries to compete with, or at least aspires to provide, the types of facilities and venues present in larger cities. This usually means bringing in the typical cadre of faster food joints and discount shopping centers. While these are indeed nice to have available, they also happen to exist more as an afterthought, a sort of standard background that one tends to ignore until a need arises. You don't make plans to go out for an evening of burritos and hit up Target afterward, after all.

Instead, it's the sort of unique businesses that will create the sort of dynamic that will attract new people, and keep current ones. If you were to tell me you were visiting Omaha, I'd direct you to several local eateries and unique venues (parks, museums, architecture, boutiques, etc.). If you were visiting the Twin Cities, I wouldn't think to mention “The Mall”, because it's just a big mall, with a big Old Navy, and about a dozen Gaps. The 5 or so shops you won't find elsewhere aren't too fantastic, either. Instead, go see Grand Avenue, or the Walker (especially the sculpture garden), and have a burger at Mickey's, or the best Italian ever at Vescio's.

I've been that person who thinks that having a McDonald's will be the coolest thing ever. And then we got the McDonald's. And then, three months later, we were forgetting that the McDonald's was even in town until we drove past it. Who cares? It's not like the Big Macs in Aurora will be any different from the ones in New York. But I am sad that the local family restaurant downtown closed, because they made a killer reuben, and now I can't have another one.

And your point is…

What's the net effect of all this? Nothing, really. Another small town turns into a stale, medium-sized town on its way to greatness, and eventually it will either regain some of its identity (or develop a new one), or it will continue to stagnate, like so many other places do. I'll make my own reubens, and keep visiting Mickey's. And the world will keep spinning until we find a way to stay on the ground without getting dizzy.

And by no means is this a “WalMart sUxOrZ!” post. WalMart is as WalMart is. The real issue at hand is the idea that having a Perkins in town is more apealing than having a family diner. This is an attitude that's not exclusive to those places that don't yet have an IHOP, either. There are those who don't even think to try the local shops, and will instead just visit what they're familiar with. I've just come to find that, though consistent, those places tend to get boring after a while. I prefer sampling local choices, rather than the generic fare.

Finally, it's not all about food, but it seems that's the most readily available metaphor. Shopping, entertainment, food, anything that makes up a dynamic community is affected by this attitude.

Before
Hello World (Again)!
After
¡Bienvenido a Miami!

Of Actual Interest

Here's where I'll post things that are really interesting. This will probably be the only real reason any of you will ever check back here.

Who is this frood?

John Arthur in shot with Mt. Rushmore in the background. John is holding his index finger up to make it look as though he has stuck it in the nose of George Washington's bust.

The Yarthur Files is run by John Arthur. John's just this guy living in St. Paul, Minnesota. He painfully tries to eek out a living by pretending he can make Web sites, and collecting spare change from other people's couch cushions. While as of yet he's been too pathetic to work up a proper bio, you can learn a bit about him at his on-line portfolio site, not that you'd be interested in that sort of thing.

What about his hoopy site?

The Yarthur Files is John's foray into become the public celebrity no one really wants him to be. He thinks it will help him learn more about Web design, writing, himself, and life in general. In the end, the populace will most likely determine that it was simply another site they accidentally stumbled upon while trying to research entertaining kitchen experiments.

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