Growing up, I lived in two small communities: Pollard, Arkansas and later in Qulin, Missouri. If you added up the populations of both 'towns' I'm pretty sure you wouldn't get even close to 1,000.
Tiny towns apparently run in my family. My mother hails from a teeny-tiny town by the name of Fox, located in Stone County, Arkansas. She graduated from Rural Special High School with 15 people in her senior class, before moving across the state to attend the University of Arkansas. There she met my dad, also from a small community, and the rest was history.
To be honest with you, there's not much in Fox, which is a big part of the community's charm. After driving up the scariest mountain in Arkansas (that's what I thought as a child at least) you'll find a small convenience store with a gas pump, a post office and the Rural Special school. My family has a farm house (probably similar to what Yankee's call "camps") there on a road that's named after our family.
Last year, my mother's hometown learned that their post office was on the chopping block for possible closing by the United States Postal Service. The USPS decided to take a closer look at 3,600+ post offices that had an annual revenue of less than $27,500 a year.
Faced with further isolation, Fox's residents launched a campaign to save their post office. Petitions, letter writing campaigns and day trips to their Representative's offices in Little Rock were kicked off. They banded together to hastily create a YouTube video explaining their situation. The video was featured by web-based Equal Voice Newspaper in an article on Fox's fight to save the post office.
Guess who saw their story?
New York Times reporter Campbell Robertson and photographer Steve Hebert came to Fox for a story on the community's response to the threat of the post office being closed. Robertson & Hebert also visited neighboring communities of Prim, Ida and Tilly, which are also facing similar situations.
If you've never lived in a rural community, you might not understand the importance of a local post office. Many residents in Fox live too far out to have a mailbox and have to pick up their mail at a post office box. Rural post offices are meeting places to catch up on community happenings and a chance for residents to gather the local gossip. I remember going to the Fox Post Office as a child with my mother to visit my Aunt Anita Sutterfield (or Aunt 'Nity as I pronounced it) who worked there. She would always hook me up with the latest copy of a 'scandal rag' and laughed when I asked her for a family discount on stamps.
Many argue that the Internet has become the downfall of Post Offices across the country, with email steadily replacing the need for snail mail. But in rural communities like Fox, often Internet access is either not readily available or the aging generations are not computer savvy. In some cases, religion frowns on computer usage.
Anxiety in Fox runs deep. While the resident's small YouTube campaign has garner attention on a national stage, it hasn't detoured decisions...yet. Mounting political pressure has persuaded the USPS to declare a moratorium on the closings until May.
Until then, folks in Fox, my family included, can breathe the country air a little deeper.
When Heather Flanigan and her husband Brett Garrett packed
their bags and moved 1500 miles from Tupelo, Mississippi to upstate New York, they really had no idea what they
were in for! The newlyweds met in an Arkansas television newsroom before deciding to check out
things on this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Since then, they've cashed in their Southern
hoe cakes for some Yankee cannoli. Now in a land far, far away from their friends and family, these two are navigating
the waters of new opportunities, bracing for winter and still trying to figure
out the Yankee version of BBQ.
Albany.com's I Heart NY Y'all is written by Emmy winning former news reporter
Heather Flanigan and is based off of her personal blog. If you've got any
survival tips for these Southerners, pass 'em on to