This Small Town

Many high school graduates in small town America are ready to leave “this small town.” They are frustrated with classes, rules and preparing for the future. They can only imagine their futures somewhere else where there is more to do. The bright-eyed 18-year-olds are ready to sow their wild oats and experience life.

At least that was me in 2003.

I left and never looked back… well until I got homesick or a holiday came around. I started my career, got married and had kiddos. Somewhere in the middle of sowing my wild oats, I landed back in “this small town.”

I lived in Arkansas for most of my time away from home. Arkansas = AState in the upper east corner and RazorbackNation in much of the rest. There is a sense of pride in Arkansas that I never felt in Missouri. I didn’t know why and I chalked it up to the southern culture.

My undergraduate degree is in journalism/public relations. One of the key theories I learned is, “perception is reality.” My graduate degree is in community and economic development. One of the key pieces I learned from the expensive 36-credit-hour-programs is that communities must stay true to itself in order to thrive. So, if you pare “perception is reality” and “staying true to itself”, then you must stay true to what you are perceived to be and you will thrive.

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West Plains is perceived as a community focused on family. That seems pretty boring until you attend the Zizzer high school homecoming football game. West Plains stayed true its perception and came together to focus on family at an American Tradition and hometown past time. You don’t have to be a football fan to appreciate the evening.

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We have an award-winning band that was accompanied by the drill team and cheer team. There was the homecoming court dressed in their best. Not to mention parents in the concession stand and organizations like the Kiwana’s Club that supported the school district with their own booths. The Ozark Medical Center had a tailgate style BBQ on the softball field right outside of the stadium. There were rally towels being sold and signs were made. Air Evac landed a helicopter on the field to present the game ball.

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Yes, this was slightly over the top for a high school football game. However, this isn’t about football. This is about the kids and families in our community. This is about Charlie saying, “look Mama, the band is coming!” This is about the emcee announcing to a few thousand people where the homecoming candidates want to attend college as they walked on the field. This is about teamwork on the field and community UNITY in the stadium.

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Twelve years ago, I was ready to get out of “this small town.” Today, “this small town” is mine. I am Missouri Proud. I get it Arkansas.

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And no, I’m not blogging the score. It doesn’t matter to me.

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4 thoughts on “This Small Town

  1. Great story. However, that night was about a winning football program bringing all those people together. 3 years ago when we lost every game only about 30% of those people were around.

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  2. Travis, I live all the way our in Arizona and have family in West Plains. They are proud of their town, and talk about it and the people all the time. Yes, I heard about that football game when it happened, but have heard of a lot more about the people over the years. So the author of the article used it as one of the examples of community spirit, you choose to discredit. Maybe you are one of us that couldn’t wait to get out of the small town, and found we left more there than we thought we would. Yes, I moved to the “big city” and the only thing worth while I found here was my wife.

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  3. My family left West Plains when I was 14 to move back to my mothers’ hometown in Florida. After being raised in a small town for all of my childhood, it was absolutely the worst time of my life to up and move, and leave everyone I knew behind. I wouldn’t even recognize WP now if I saw it, but I often think of how wonderful it would be to move back so my son could grow up in the same great little town that I have such fond memories of. I liked this story and can certainly relate to it. I’d happily be at every football game to support the Zizzers if I could, whether they had a winning season or not. Zizzer football in West Plains is the equivalent of a NFL team in a larger city. Some are true fans, some aren’t, but I’m sure everyone is proud of the boys that go out and represent WP, each week. Chuck, you simply could not find anyone more proud of West Plains, than Travis Smith. He IS Zizzer sports, but more importantly he’s lived in WP for the better part of 47 years, and if anyone’s entitled to their opinion about West Plains, he is.

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