Down on the farm

As the World War I era song goes, “How ya gonna keep them down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?”

It isn’t hard, let me tell you. In the college year 1972-73, beginning in July, I was a student at the Sorbonne in Paris. Everyone thinks it was just fun and games because of the city. All of my classes were in French as we were a mélange of students from around the world. At break time the Chinese students spoke English with each other. We had Italian students, British, German, Dutch, African, American and many other countries I have long since forgotten. Our commonality was the French language.

I grew up near tiny Oral, S.D., a town that is still not incorporated. At the time the population was maybe 70 in the town. Paris had 10 million residents when I lived there. It sounds like a huge culture shock but as in most cities, we had our own little community of shops right around our neighborhood. The shopkeepers were delightful as they welcomed us into their stores so we could practice our French. An etiquette rule of the French is that normally if you enter a shop, you have to buy something. It was rude to just go in and look around. That was a difference from the U.S. and it was a difficult habit to remember. The local mom and pop shops exempted us students from the buying rule.

Surprisingly, I learned some things about English while learning French. In English, when we order at a restaurant we use the phrase, “I want to order…” The French deem that as rude and demanding, and insist that one should say, “I would like to order…” It is a lesson that has stuck with me, though I’m not sure I remember to say it “correctly” all of the time. It still strikes me funny that the French could talk about a habit or phrase being rude, at least in their estimation.

I got along ok because I spoke the language, after awhile at least. But I discovered that the further you got from the city itself, the more hospitable people became. Perhaps it was the hustle and bustle of the city, the crowded conditions, the constant feeling of being in a hurry, whereas in the suburbs the residents were just more relaxed and helpful.

While living in the city, I realized I missed country living. Even so, although I hadn’t decided what I would be when I grew up, I knew one thing for sure. I would not marry a farmer and live at Oral, yet that is exactly what I did. How many times have we each said, ‘Never say never’? When you do, often you have to eat your words; fortunately, mine were sweet.

I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. And I imagine many readers, living throughout the region, would say the same about where they reside and are as thankful as I am to live in “God’s country.”

Peggy writes from the home ranch in southwestern South Dakota. Her internet latchstring is out by emailing

Peggy Sanders


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