Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Town Mice And Country Mice Air Their Differences

October 1, 2001

ONCE UPON A TIME, a time not long ago, two groups of mice were having conversations. One group, made up exclusively of country mice, gathered in a farmhouse. The other, made up solely of town mice, met in a private room in the back of a coffee shop. Listen in.

1st Country Mouse: Know what bothers me about town mice? They put their noses in the air. You know, this "country hick" business. They've forgotten we went to the same schools they did.

2nd Country Mouse: Why is that? I guess they figure that they work with their heads and we work with our hands. I wish it were that simple! I get a headache trying to figure out how to make this farming business work. I’d like to see any one of them deal with our cash flow problems.

1st Country Mouse: It is kind of ironic, isn't it? What gets me is when we walk into a store, they just keep on talking to their friends; it's like our business doesn't matter to them.

3rd Country Mouse: It used to make me mad when one of the town business mice would say, "You farmers have it made. You can have anything you want." I'd always get a snide remark like that from somebody or other. One thing this farm crisis has done, though, is show some of the town mice that it is tough to make a living in the country!

4th Country Mouse: Yeah, but even when they do see one of us in a newer car or pickup, they figure we are well off. They don't realize that living in the country requires reliable transportation. With all the running we do, our vehicles do a lot of work for us.

2nd Country Mouse: Do you know what else bugs me? It's trying to give input on a community project. Town mice act like the community ends at the town limits; they jump in and run the show! Even if they ask our opinion, they do what they want anyway.

3rd Country Mouse: I've noticed in our church that we country mice volunteer to do most of the work. It gets me when some of the town mice say, "I work; I can't do it." I wonder if they realize how that sounds? We country mice work as hard as anybody!

Now let's listen in on the town mice at the coffee shop.

1st Town Mouse: Gee, these country mice are so sensitive! They wear their feelings on their sleeve. If you don't happen to smile at them the right way, they take offense. Do you think they have some sort of "inferiority complex"?

2nd Town Mouse: I’ve noticed that, too. It seems like they focus on the few mice in town that have money and say to themselves, "I'm going to be disgusted." One thing the economy has done is show country mice that just because you are a business mouse on Main Street doesn't necessarily make you rich.

1st Town Mouse: Rich! Have you noticed how many businesses are going under lately? Most of us are just hanging on by our paws. The media plays up the plight of the "poor" farmer, but where's the sympathy for the rest of us that are suffering along with them?

3rd Town Mouse: I'm going to say something that I don't want to leave this room. I'm tired of hearing the country mice say, "We take all the risks. You just make a living off of us."

There's risk in everything. Our businesses aren't subsidized by the government. We earn every penny of what we get. But I just have to bite my tongue because I know my business depends on goodwill from country mice.

1st Town Mouse: Let's call a spade a spade. Around here, six or seven mice families in the country have all the power and prestige. They pretty much dominate the community. Have you noticed which pups drive the nice vehicles? Not our pups by a long shot!

3rd Town Mouse: I doubt that I spend 10% on big toys that some of these fellows with snowmobiles do. I’d love to afford some of their hobbies.

2nd Town Mouse: Yeah, and how many of us winter in Florida? Besides, those big guys really hurt us. They have the buying power to bypass us. If they’d shop at our stores everybody would be better off. I don’t see a nickel of their money.

4th Town Mouse: You know what else gets me? The amount of complaining country mice do. They act like everything in the world ought to be their hunk of cheese.

2nd Town Mouse: Speaking of whining, the country mice never seem to get involved in the Chamber of Commerce or any other community development committees we have, yet when push comes to shove, they find something wrong with everything we do. I wish they’d put their time and money where their mouths are and stop being grandstand quarterbacks!

Does any of this sound familiar? In much of rural America, these folks are in the same sinking boat. They are more alike than different. They need each other. They need to bridge town/county pride and pettiness, appreciate one another, communicate and look beyond the fence line or the town limits for common solutions.