Rendered Fat Content


Adriaen Coorte: Still Life with Asparagus (1697)

"Most came from somewhere else and grew into this place …"

In this valley, folks give considerable credence to the native born. We use the phrase "born and raised here" to claim that birthright. All others take second place. Though my birth family moved me here when I was eight months old, I cannot rightfully claim the native born title, for I was born elsewhere. I, too, remain a carpet-bagger, like most folks here, not to even mention the forty-some years I did not live here, for I was one of the majority who relocated to someplace with more opportunity than this small city could afford me, and I became one who could not sustain viability after returning, so that I had to go away and reinvent myself all over again a second time before I could try to call this place mine again. I needed a place with a bigger future and a much shorter memory for me to ever outgrow who I'd become known as when growing up here. Like most, I guess, I felt that I sincerely needed to reinvent myself before I could grow into my true self, however self-deluded that might make me seem.

I wonder how the 'born and raised' crowd ever found enough space to properly reinvent themselves for adulthood.
Some, I suppose, went away to college and found their more mature self studying there. For those who inherited the family farm, perhaps no reinvention was ever required, but just the acceptance that allows one to grow up to become someone they always knew they'd become. Fact is, each year, the native born represent an increasingly smaller proportion of our local society, and our society's much better for the diversity that diminishment brings. Few of us Transplants see this small city the same way as the natives seem to perceive it. We revere it, too, but perhaps in a more circumspect fashion. We might agree that we inhabit the center of the universe here, but us Transplants have experienced living places further from that center. Perhaps we understand that this land is special but not exclusively so. The native born are, like the rich, not necessarily any wiser about this place than the least of any of the rest of us.

Few of us these days take heritage very seriously. We more believe in the influence of nurture over nature, and we scoff at notions that certain races might somehow prove superior at some professions, at least until the talk turns toward family; family's materially different than anthropology. Science knows that there's no genetic basis for someone succeeding at farming, but through modern history, the Germans have been perceived as having been blessed with the non-existent farming gene. My own family history highlights how my family's nationality got them invited to Transplant, first to Ukraine then later to North Dakota. Railroads sent agents to Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century to convince those who would not inherit the family farm to immigrate to the American Midwest, offering free land for farming, though the offer was more self-serving than that. Most of those would-be farmers ended up working for the railroads off season, digging out tracks after blizzards blocked them, and much of the free land could not be viably farmed by the section.

"How do you happen to be here?" seems an irrelevant question in a room filled with natives, but few rooms are filled with true natives today. Done are the days when anyone could confidently sit on the sidelines and predict behaviors based upon personal history with the actors, as I suppose some prior, less mobile generations, might have. Even those, though, came here from different places. Reading the obituaries, a common practice in small city life, I notice that few who depart originally arrived here first. Most came from somewhere else and grew into this place, setting down roots which after sixty or seventy years, seemed plenty close enough to native to bely the fact that they were Transplants. They're buried here nonetheless, same as the native born. Perhaps the greater distinction lies in which ground one's buried. Born and raised is one thing. Died and planted, quite another.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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