Learning to live in a small town

Back in December I made a decision on a whim to pack up my life in Minneapolis and move out to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I needed a break from the city life and I couldn’t think of a better place than the Houghton area.

Everyone back home thought I was crazy. “It’s so desolate!” “The middle of nowhere!” “You don’t even know anyone out there!” I didn’t care. I was independent and stubborn and I was going. How hard could it be to live out in a rural area?

Well it turns out you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t necessarily take the city out of the girl and I learned this pretty quickly. The things I’ve learned in the past eight months about living in a small town in the country are absolutely mind blowing.

The first thing I learned about was snow and shoveling. In Minneapolis it doesn’t really snow that much. Even when it does, I never had to worry about it because I lived in buildings where caretakers would clear our entry ways. I knew moving up here that insane amounts of snow was the norm and I was pumped about it. I went out and bought a shovel right away and was like a little kid in a candy store every time it snowed. Well for about the first three weeks. Then I was totally over it. There were even snowfalls that I physically could not shovel because the snow was so deep and so heavy. This was not cool at all. The snow quickly turned from this magical excitement to something that I dreaded. But something else I learned very quickly was that the people up here were very kind. Many times I would get home from work to find my driveway completely cleared of snow. Sometimes I had no idea who had even done it. Forget Minnesota nice, how about U.P. nice?

Second, I learned about animals. I was having some problems with my freezer one night and didn’t want my food to go bad so I set all of it out on my deck. I mean, I lived in the middle of nowhere, so it wasn’t like anyone was going to steal my food from me. Wrong. I awoke the following morning to find little footprints all over the deck and the remnants of what was left of my food strewn about all over the place. I was in shock. Some little raccoon family had come and feasted on all of my food. But on the plus side, they left my ice cream, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

My second animal interaction came when I arrived home from work one day to find a ferret running along the stream next to my house. I panicked. Someone’s pet ferret had escaped from their house! It must be so scared! It would never survive out in these woods! I chased after it for a moment, but it simply ran from me and disappeared into the woods. I called a friend immediately, hoping she could offer some advice on how I could save this poor creature. She laughed at the situation and explained to me that this was not someone’s pet ferret, but rather a wild mink. WHAT? No. A wild animal? I was sure this was a pet ferret. Turns out she was right. I saw many of these little creatures over the next couple months. Boy did I feel silly.

Finally, the third thing I learned involved both animals and transportation. That would be the night that I destroyed a deer with my car. I had never been so terrified in my life. I stood on the side of the road shaking uncontrollably, probably the reason no one stopped to help me because I’m positive that I looked absolutely insane. But I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Should I just leave? Do I call the police? Instead, I called my mother, who turns out, had no idea what to do in that situation either. It was just then that a police officer pulled up to save the day. He didn’t save the day though. He delivered the bad news that my car was not drivable. The next day, the body shop delivered the news that my car wouldn’t be fixed for about three weeks. WHAT? Back in the city I wouldn’t have even blinked an eye because I could have taken the bus, train or rode my bicycle. But now I found myself stranded at my house ten miles out of town with no transportation. I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do.

But this is where the U.P. nice comes in again. My boss let me use his extra vehicle until the body shop was able to provide me with a loaner car. Who does that? People in the U.P. I guess.

So, I’ve learned a lot up here in a short period of time. I know that I don’t know the first thing about surviving out in the country by myself. As must as I want to think that I do, I’m still a naive city girl at heart. If the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow, I would be one of the first to go. I’ve also learned that wild animals do exist in real life, not just on the national geographic channel. But, most importantly, I’ve learned that the people of the U.P. are some of the nicest, most generous people I’ve come across in my entire life. Even if they do talk kind of funny.

Editor’s note: Madi Amala is the clerk at The Daily Mining Gazette.