1. The smell of freshly-made poop. When the ground is fertilized. When you drive past the cow pastures. When it’s hot and the air from the fields carries in the wind. Poop. (You get used to it…sort of.)
2. Anything you need you can probably find at the dollar store. And it’s probably not $1.
3. When you drive down the street, everyone will wave. Don’t look over your shoulder. They’re waving at you.
4. You will learn to love country music if you haven’t already. Because every single station (except news radio) is country. And it’s played at almost every party.
5. You will start to imagine your love life as a country song. A girl in a sundress at a tailgate—yep, that could be the future you.
6. You will eat corn and like it. And you’ll learn that canned corn sucks compared to the real deal.
7. You will indulge in the great art of cow tipping at least once. Or at minimum, be open to the idea. (Yes, this is a real thing.)
8. Gravel roads are perfect for adventures. Long drives, solo runs, dog walks. The air is better. You can go for miles in either direction. Plus there are hardly any cars, and if you happen to come across one, it’ll move to the other side of the road for you. Perks.
9. Any time you need to go somewhere, it becomes an adventure. The nearest Target is 20 minutes on the highway, so if you’re headed out, you’re headed out with an all-day game plan that includes friends, shopping, and food.
10. And those adventures will become your best memories. When you look back, you’ll remember those sunny summer days with the windows down and the music blasting. You’ll remember how the cornfields looked in season, how the sun glinted through the windshield. And you’ll remember your girlfriends around you, sharing laughs, stories, and of course, snacks.
11. There are two ‘ethnically diverse’ places to eat in town. A Mexican restaurant and a Chinese restaurant. And that’s it.
12. The nearest place to get sushi is 1 hour away. Ridiculous, right?
13. You can schedule a doctor’s appointment for that day and get in before closing. And get your prescription ordered and processed, too.
14. You refer to your address by the street name or surrounding locations. “It’s down 9th Street by the skate park” or “Three houses down from Joe’s”.
15. You can get (intentionally) lost anywhere. The one-lane backroads are endless. Or they end somewhere no one ever goes, which is perfect for quiet, alone, self-rejuvenating time. (Or for smooch sessions.)
16. You’ve probably swam in an outdoor pond. Somewhere off the side of the road where you jumped in and *gasp* didn’t die from E.coli or West Nile or anything crazy…yet.
17. You’ve also probably skinny dipped in pond. Almost lost your clothes, almost got caught, and still somehow managed to capture the whole thing on camera.
18. There’s only one coffee shop, and it’s expensive. But you find yourself there more often than not. No regrets.
19. Everyone either knows you as a townie or an out-of-townie. If you were born and raised here, it’s home (duh.) Everyone knows you, and your daddy, and your daddy’s daddy. Townie.
If you’re an out-of-townie, then you’re known as ‘Chicago girl’ or some other identifier labeling you as someone who hasn’t always belonged here, but belongs now. And you’re loved regardless.
20. Even if they call you ‘Chicago Girl,’ they still know your name. Because knowing everyone is the unspoken rule.
21. You don’t need an I.D. anywhere. When you go to pick up your paycheck, when you buy liquor, when you go to the bar—everyone knows who you are and how old you are. (Sucks when you’re an under-ager.)
22. Gas is always cheaper. And meat, and vegetables, and taxes.
23. Buying a lottery ticket is not an option unless you’re 21 and can prove it. Oddly enough, that’s the only thing you really get carded for.
24. You probably live a reasonable distance from a Subway. Because they seem to be in every Iowa small town, or at least in close proximity.
25. There’s the one place where everybody works. And it’s either the bar, the farm, or the local factory.
26. You will have friends your age, and friends 20+ years older than you. They will all be awesome people. And you will hangout with all of them.
27. You will encounter a plethora of dogs. Because small town Iowa people are pet people.
28. You will also encounter a large amount of stray cats. Because small town Iowa people feed stray cats. And these cats keep reproducing. And keep eating. (Hey, at least they’re cute.)
29. Anytime you go to the bar, you’ll spend a decent amount of time listening to crazy townie stories. They’ll tell you about their childhood, that time they climbed on the roof of the apartment complex on 5th Street and shot fireworks in the middle of the night, or that one time they mud wrestled a pig. (Also a real thing.)
30. You probably know more than you’d like to know about most people. Who’s slept with who, who cheated on who, who had a child with who—people you know, and people you’ve never met.
31. If you need anything, you have at least 39 people you could call. Not including immediate family, extended family, or best friends.
32. The guy that pumps your gas can also change your tire, fix your car radio, and replace your battery. And probably will only charge you $20.
33. Once you’ve been to a restaurant more than three times, they know you. Your order. Your name. And they’ll ask you if you want the ‘regular’. Or, if you’re lucky, they’ll bring the extra-large queso dip right away because they just know.
34. You have at least two speeding tickets. Because driving 25 mph is just too hard sometimes.
35. The town gas station is probably either a Casey’s or a Kum & Go. But thank God for Casey’s pizza, right?
36. A good majority of people wear cowboy hats and boots. And sooner than later, you’ll find yourself attracted to those country boys.
37. The lady that helps you file your taxes also works at the liquor store. And the college. And probably somewhere else, too.
38. Beer is cheap as hell. ‘Thirsty Thursdays’ are a thing, just on a much smaller, more low-key scale. (And PSA: you can’t go wrong with Dollar Beer Night.)
39. But if you’re going out, you’ll see everyone. And that includes the entire college, the high schoolers with their totally obvious fake I.D.s, your coach, the lady whose kids you babysit, and probably your boss. Cheers!
40. After living in small town Iowa for a few months, you’ll find yourself calling it ‘home’. There’s something homey about people that love you before they even know you, making an effort to know you, and still loving you the same. Even if you can’t wait to get out, there will always be that longing to go back. It’s the corn, or something.