08 November 2017

Sioux County's Other City. Or, "Where the Small Town American Dream Lives On"

Regular readers may recall my several posts about Sioux County, Iowa. A veritable puff piece here, a slam on corporate welfare for the county's rich farmers here, a short explanation of why they're so darn rich here, and a lament about the visit of then-candidate Donald Trump to Dordt College here

For a long--a bit too long, IMO--piece about the people of Sioux County's seat of government, Orange City, read this article by Melissa MacFarquhar from The New Yorker. MacFarquhar obviously spent time in Orange City and achieved a decent grasp on what makes it (and its Sioux County rival, Sioux Center) tick. There are a few nits to pick, e.g., it's not the Dutch Reformed Church but the Reformed Church in America (the ecclesiastical home of the late Robert Schuller) and a bit of scattershot arm-chair sociology. Still, she gets what makes some pockets of small-town Dutch America the sorts of places that many people don't want to leave. (And makes many of those who do, homesick.) In short, I highly recommend it to my readers' attention.

But I would be remiss if I didn't quote from the work of Sioux County's poet laureate, Sietze Buning (a/k/a the late Stan Wiersma). (Not that the Dutch would ever give anyone the title of poet laureate.) In his "Style and Class" Wiersma penned twenty-two poems comparing Sioux Center and Orange City (with an aside or two about his now-disappeared home town of Middleburg). Even though Wiersma wrote these poems 40 years ago, and that they were set 40 years earlier, they aren't too far off today on MacFarquhar's account of things. Here's one:

Friendly or Proper?
By nine
I realized my parents greeted everybody in Middleburg
because they knew everybody there,
greeted everybody in Sioux Center
whether they knew them or not,
but in Orange City
greeted only the people they knew.

"Why dress up to shop in Orange City and not in Sioux Center?"
"Why greet everybody in Sioux Center and not in Orange City?"

"Sioux Center is friendly and Orange City is proper."

"Which one is better?"

Dad: "Orange City."
Mother: "Sioux Center."

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