April 9, 2013
In the tiny village of Gilmanton, Wis., the local citizenry doesn’t scroll through Facebook or Twitter to learn what their friends and neighbors are up to. Instead, for the latest news and gossip, they go to the town dump.
Gilmanton, nestled in the picturesque valleys of western Wisconsin, about 50 minutes from Eau Claire, is a farming community where everyone knows everyone. It’s a town of two bars, a general store, a tiny post office, a diner and a small bank branch. But make no mistake, the “town square” is the dump, and it’s unofficial ambassador is a guy named Royal, whose job it is to supervise the dump’s operation every Saturday from 9 to 3.
Gilmanton is where my family has a little hobby farm, and each week when we take in our recycling and household garbage, Royal cheerily shares the latest news and rumors, and throws in a few good-natured jabs at the “foreigners” from Minnesota. He also makes it a point to introduce us to anyone else who might be dropping off their refuse at the same time. In short, for the past eight years, Royal has helped connect us to our new neighbors, and that’s allowed a bunch of city slickers to quickly put down roots and make our way in a tight-knit rural community.
It’s getting harder and harder for many of us to remember life before the internet and social media. And while it’s easy to romanticize the era when a people primarily connected at church, school or over a picket fence, I’m reminded every day there’s also great value in the frequency and breadth of the connections possible in this digital era.
But for all their ubiquity, Twitter and Facebook somehow missed the news that Bonnie, who runs the Gilmanton general store, broke her hip, and that Royal has come up with a great new way to make dandelion wine.
DM me if you want the recipe.