Vegas Living Vs. Small Town Charm

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal July 14, 2010

Last year we moved our family from Las Vegas, Nevada to Casper, Wyoming.  When people hear that we came from Vegas, they often ask with a shocked look, “Where…exactly…in Las Vegas did you live?”  Smiling, I respond, “Have you heard of the Strip?  Our house was just down the street.”   Their shock generally turns to horror, and they continue, “You must have been soooo glad to get out of there!”
Well, yes.  We were glad to finally move out of the big city.  However, popular to contrary belief, there are good families, friendly neighborhoods, wonderful churches, and beautiful scenery in Las Vegas.  Some parts of Vegas we miss.  Other aspects we are glad to live without.  But, the real adventure has been moving to Casper.
We flew into the Natrona County Airport for my husband’s job interview.  “I wonder where we pick up our luggage,” my husband said, recalling the zoo of terminals at the Vegas airport.  After de-planing outside of the airport, we discovered that there was only ONE baggage claim.  While we waited, my husband took a moment to find a restroom.  “I’ll guard your bag,” I offered, still accustomed to Las Vegas living.  Despite my tension, however, the people around me (many wearing cowboy hats), were chatting easily, leaving their luggage to wander over to the drinking fountain or rental car counter, and connecting with old friends.  Soon the baggage track started, the few bags were sent out, and everyone left.  Just like that.  “Wow,” I breathed.  “That was easy.” 
We met our courtesy ride in the front of the airport.  As we road into town the driver called his buddy, “I’m taking outer drive because the traffic is terrible!” he said.  Traffic?  We raised our eyebrows.  What traffic?  Oh, that slow car in front of you is a nuisance?  We smiled.  Let us tell you about traffic.  Two hours sitting still on a blazing hot freeway turned parking lot, now that’s bad traffic.
A few weeks later we traveled to Casper with our children.  It was just dusk as we drove past Alcova.  Soon the sun was gone.  Suddenly, my daughter exclaimed from the back seat, “Look at all the stars!!!”  We turned our necks and peered at the night sky.  It was peppered with stars—dozens, hundreds, millions, billions.  After years of neon lights in Vegas, our children had never seen anything like it. 
The next few weeks were filled with additional small town surprises.  When we went to the library for the first time, a nice, grandmotherly librarian began stamping the due date (by hand!) on each book.  My children stared.  “Just as a courtesy,” she smiled.
Another day we saw a car left parked on the curb, with the engine running! 
Going to Walmart was also an experience. In Vegas, check-out lines always stretched for at least 30 minutes.  But when I went to the cash register in Casper, the sales associate smiled, greeted me in English, and apologized for any delay I might have experienced.  “This is our busy time,” she explained.  “This?  Busy?” I asked, looking around at the few customers.  “I’ll take it.”
“Look at the shopping carts,” my son whispered.  “No locks!”  The Vegas carts had magnetic wheel barriers which would click into place once a cart was at the edge of the parking lot.  “People must not push their groceries home, here,” he concluded.
The first day my children went to school here, they came home with glowing reports.  “The teachers all dress up!  They smile at the students!  There is a big, indoor gymnasium where we can play basketball (no indoor P.E. time in Vegas). School lunch is cooked right at the school!  Every student uses a computer!  We can bring library books home!”  The list went on and on…
The sounds are also different.  Las Vegas sirens were constantly screaming past our house—police, fire, ambulance—at all hours of the day and night.  When we finally heard a siren in Casper we all stopped and listened.  “Haven’t heard that sound in a while,” commented my daughter.  “Hey, no police helicopters either!” my son chimed in.  Nighttime spotlight searches were commonplace in our Vegas neighborhood.  After double-checking the locks on our doors, we learned to sleep soundly through neighborhood robberies and drug busts.  No, I’m NOT exaggerating.
And, everyone in Casper seems to know—or be related to—everyone else.  Rather than tell people our address, we often just explain who we purchased our home from.  “Oh, yes, I knew them for 20 years,” is the common reply. 
But the most pleasant surprise of this small, Wyoming town is the friendly people.  When we go to the store, people say “Hi”.  At the drycleaner, the owner greets us.  At the bank, we are known by name.  The secretary at the doctor’s office knows the whole family.  And, the line is usually short at the post office.
Yes, living in Casper and living in Las Vegas are two different experiences.  But for now, I’ll take Wyoming.

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