The meaning of “small town USA”

The phrase “small town USA” pops up in everything from song lyrics to political speeches. Most often, it’s used to evoke the image of a close-knit community, a place where everyone knows everyone, a town teeming with those who rely on each other like loved ones.

Of course, a cynic might wonder if such a place really exists, if this catch phrase holds any true meaning. Sure, people like to imagine there are places in America where Norman Rockwell paintings are lived out day after day. But does that make it so?

That cynic, and many others, would likely be surprised by many of the communities in Todd County. They come pretty darn close to fulfilling that quintessential image of small town USA.


Just ask Karen Weego. She moved to Hewitt, Minnesota, from California – where her apartment building had a larger population than her new town. She didn’t know a soul in Hewitt, yet A bunch of the city’s residents showed up to help her move in. Once she came back from the store to find a rhubarb pie on her kitchen table. She still doesn’t know who left it for her.

Then there’s Joe Arnzen, a long-time resident of Grey Eagle, Minnesota. Last summer, the car Joe and his sister Linda were riding in was broadsided. Linda was killed and Joe was seriously injured. The town’s residents rallied around Joe and did everything they could to help. When Christmas came around, they even set up his holiday decorations. And that was no small feat.

Linda and Joe shared a home for years. Linda loved creating elaborate displays in their yard for every holiday on the calendar and Joe wanted to continue that tradition. But, still struggling to recover from his physical injuries, he found even arranging plastic gingerbread men beyond his abilities.

Then, one day, a group of townspeople arrived on Joe’s doorstep. They informed him they’d be setting up his decorations that December. They gave him a laser pointer and told him to indicate exactly where he wanted them to place each Christmas elf and every toy solider.


Just last week, the mayor of Grey Eagle let Joe know that he and a few others from town would soon be over to take down the Christmas display and put up the Easter decorations.

The phrase “small town USA” might get thrown around a lot these days. It’s kinda cool to know that, in some places, it really means something.

  • Karen Weego

    I need to post a correction to the above:

    We moved to Hewitt from California because of a girlfriend I’d met in the Army. Her name is Kathy Walker. Her family moved to Hewitt from Alaska when she was about 14. It was their kindness and the lifestyle that lead us to Hewitt.

    Thank you

  • Dave Peters

    Thanks, Karen.

  • Dave Peters

    Thanks, Karen.