Little River. After the Little Arkansas River — which, by the way, is pronounced Ar-KAN-sas in these parts.
This is no metropolis. Just a mile north of U.S. 56 in Rice County, the central Kansas farming community of about 500 doesn’t have a Walmart, McDonald’s or even a single stoplight. Main Street is two blocks long. And my high school senior class had four girls and 24 boys.
While some may think we were deprived, being little actually had its advantages. Like smaller class sizes and more opportunities to participate in activities such as band, choir and athletics. For years, the high school musicals drew an audience from around the county and we had a reputation for being a powerhouse in football or basketball.
Those opportunities extended into the workplace as well. Passing up more traditional jobs like waiting tables or babysitting, several of us girls spent our summers at the local grain elevator/service station, where we were trained not only to pump gas and change oil, but also to fill anhydrous ammonia tanks and load liquid fertilizer into 3,000-gallon trucks, then drive them out to the farmers’ fields.
And social media had nothing on us — thanks in part to our telephone party lines, which we shared with a group of neighbors. It wasn’t unusual to pick up the phone and find yourself right in the middle of your neighbor’s conversation.
So maybe my tiny burg didn’t have a swimming pool, multiplex cinema or mega shopping mall. But what it lacked in size, it made up for in spirit. And still does. Like when residents recently came together to help families whose homes were destroyed by a tornado and a fire. Or when they voted to use a local community foundation fund to buy laptop computers for every student in junior and senior high school.
Sometimes, “big” is in the eye of the beholder.