Life in a small town is different. So, for that matter, is death. Carrie and I, a fellow student in my UCSD writing class, spoke about this. Carrie grew up in Starbuck, Minnesota, population 1,300. Their slogan is "A Great Place to Visit, a Better Place to Live". Their claim to fame? The World's Largest Lefsa. For the uninitiated, the lefsa is a Norwegian potato cake, made with mashed potatoes, flour, cream and butter, rolled out thin, cooked on a griddle and eaten with cinnamon sugar. This is a very popular pastry in the Midwest.

"She was a little older than us and had a sister in my brother's class. She worked at a daycare center."

Carrie grew up doing the things you do in small Midwestern towns, such as snowmobiling and ice-skating in the winter, and swimming and bike-riding in the summer. Carrie never had a relative or someone she knew die, and did not as yet know anyone who had.

"She was involved with a teacher at the school. They lived together, but things were not going well, and she was already seeing someone else. One day, he did not show up for work, and instead sat in a chair all day until the kids left."

Carrie's father was on the volunteer fire department. Being such a small town, this was pretty standard. All the citizens were involved in the community. Everyone knows everyone, so when someone dies, it's almost as if an extension of yourself has died as well.

"She was trying to leave to see her new boyfriend. He shot her with a shotgun, set the house on fire, and then killed himself."

When the volunteer fire department arrived, they could not open the door because his body had formed a barricade. They had to use force to enter. No one ever forgot about this, because death in a small town is very different from death in a big city. Nameless, faceless people die in big cities. Death in a small town is all-pervasive.

"Their funerals had to be closed caskets. My father and his friends in the volunteer fire department had to go to a form of therapy afterward, like for post traumatic stress disorder. Nothing like this had happened before."

A few weeks after this was over, Carrie heard that the father of the man who killed his girlfriend and then killed himself was accused of molesting his female employees at the bank he ran.

"News travels fast in small towns. Everyone knows everyone."

Small town life suddenly seemed much smaller for Carrie, and she had out-grown it. Not long after this, Carrie joined the Navy, because the world is a big place.


David Dodd June 13, 2009 @ 8:15 p.m.

It ended too soon! I found myself wanting to know more about Carrie, she sounds very interesting. At least, you make her sound very interesting :)


MsGrant June 14, 2009 @ 7:18 a.m.

It was an exercise. We were given exactly 10 minutes to get to know another person in our class and write a story about them. The other person had to write about me as well. At first Carrie was so shy I could barely get her to speak. Funny thing is, after this exercise, she never came to class again. I think she was so scared that attention would be focused on her when we discussed our stories the next week that she decided it would be less stressful to just not show up. I know that feeling well. I would rather die than speak in public. I've gotten much better, but it is a difficult fear to overcome.


David Dodd June 14, 2009 @ 8:30 a.m.

Well, you certainly did a good job, especially only given ten minutes. After all, the point is to make a reader want more!

Sorry to hear that Cathy never went back to class. Some people are very shy, especially speaking in public. I remember in college, in a Political Science class, we had a debate on an issue. A young lady chose the side of the debate that was the universally popular point of view. Since no one else spoke up, I chose the unpopular stance. Toward the end of the debate, even though the large majority of the class was firmly on her side, the poor girl ran out of the classroom and threw up, she was so nervous.

As for myself, I figured that the worse that could happen is that I have an unpopular point of view. After that incident, I've never had a problem with public speaking.


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader