giant ear of corn
Outside Dunning, Nebraska

We’d headed north toward the old woods, came over a rise and there it was, a 22-foot ear of corn. It had been laid (with block and tackle?) in a wagon and was being pulled along by two straining mules.

Okay. if we HAD, seen a limousine-sized ear of corn, you know it wouldn’t have been at Kroger’s in Detroit or even Sam’s Club (though they do buy in bulk). This is the kind of thing you only find in rural America.

“Rural” is the land of giants ““ it’s where Paul Bunyan stomped out the Great Lakes and dragged his big axe, carving the Grand Canyon. (King Kong was also big, but if you’ll remember, he came from the mega-rural continent of Africa and didn’t fare so well as an urbanite. We’d call him “the exception that proves the rule.”) No, it’s definitely in the country where we expect to see monstrosities.

Truckstop west of Liberal, Kansas
Photo: Worth 1000

Why is that? First, it takes a large truckstop out in the middle of, say, Kansas, to accommodate a bug on this scale. Can you imagine the trouble this creature would have rounding the corners in one of those underground parking lots of a city or, oh dear, flying around in a bistro? The country is the only place with enough room for giants, that’s true. But it’s also because we imagine rural places as primeval ““ a giant step or two closer to the tree-munching dinosaurs than are downtown Baltimore or Riverside, California. Anything, including 900 pound potatoes, can happen out here where it’s so quiet and weathery and dark.

Breaking a Jackrabbit
Recluse, WY

And rural people are different, too, aren’t they? I mean, these are folks who’ve grown up alongside 40 pound scorpions and know their way around a rabbit at 16 hands. We bet there isn’t one person who would know how to saddle a rabbit in Riverside.

After seeing several jackelope, you might be tempted to think “Everything’s Bigger in the Country.” But actually that’s not so. The gigantism of the countryside shrinks fast when you’re interested in wages not scorpions, health care rather than ears of corn.

Near Presidio, TX

According to the Economic Research Service, one half of all non-metro counties declined in population between 2000 and 2005. Rural Americans, though definitely more at ease with Jeep-sized armadillos, report poorer health and more physical limitations than do urban and suburban Americans. They’re less likely to have health insurance or jobs, even with all the rabbit rodeos going on.

If you’re looking for giant diplomas, you should check around in a metro area. According to ERS figures from 2000, 26.6% of urbanites had college degrees, compared with only 15.5% of non-metro Americans. Then, you don’t need a college degree to drag an axe, even a really, really big one.

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