The poetry of small towns

I have been in our small town in Idaho for the last ten days. Simple. Farmers. Salt of the earth.

People who rely on God for their crops. Pray when to plant, pray for rain, pray not too much, pray for heat, not too much, pray on when to cut the fields, pray that there is no rain until you can bale it (three days), pray for thanks and begin again.

Most farmers are broke financially. Yet spiritually they are the richest people I know. Two reasons:

1. You must remain a partner with God and trust He knows what He is doing because at best you are still guessing when to plant and cut.

2. Because someone around your farm is going to fail even if you don’t and if you succeed this year, you may be the one that fails next year. Thus: You have a reason to help your neighbor. You all know that “there by the grace of God go I.”

As I watch these people and see how they live I see the solutions. Nations forget as they become industrialized. They move into cities and no longer even see the canvas of the master painter. The full expanse of the sky. It seems as we grow rich financially, the more arrogant and spiritually bankrupt we become. We no longer see ourselves as partners with The Eternal, we begin to see life as dog eat dog and our problems become bigger as our neighbors become invisible.

What a simple answer to our problems. Yet, how difficult, possibly impossible, to actually do without a farm.

As I was in church today I listened to the choir. For a while we attended church right at Lincoln Center in NYC. I remember one Sunday, as we all began to sing, that somehow, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was visiting and all sitting all around me in the pews. No, it was just a place on earth where some of the most talented performers happened to attend church. Today, my neighbors stood to sing. The farmers, the guy who works at the car lot, a few retired heroes, their wives and children. What I heard was not what those at Lincoln Center would describe a technically flawless, but the music I heard was more perfect than I ever heard in any of the great concert halls.

I have carried that sound in my head all day and tried to understand why it effected me the way it did. There was something more to it than just lyrics, notes and singers. As I picked up John Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ to read this afternoon it hit me. Almost every word in that book is poetry. Beautifully written. But, at first, you are left with the impression that he as a writer, is almost mocking who and everything these Okies are. I don’t know Steinbeck’s history well enough to know his motivation but in his writing I found the answer I was looking for. What I heard today was the original.

It was authentic. It was real.

In the big city it is easy to find things and talented people that can paint, act, write or sing songs that make your heart swell with that warm, sweet feeling of something bigger than you, me or the piece of art. But, most times, what you are finding is what I found in Steinbeck: a mere reflection or echo of the authentic art that those simple people in the small no name towns live everyday. All of the great art of America was composed to reflect the people I listened to in this small church on the edge of a town that only has maybe two stop lights.

What we are looking for to uplift, inspire, and model is found here in the small town at the base of a mountain in Idaho. Real people who rely on something bigger than themselves and in the end each other.

The world mocks these people and the way they live. The children, including in my case as a teenager race to leave these towns to head to the cities. People will say, there is “nothing to do or see there” or that these towns “don’t have any culture.” They are right if you believe that art hangs on a wall.

There aren’t any museums, concert halls or poetry corners in America’s small towns, because the music is in the peoples spirit love and charity, the art is in their weathered faces and calloused hands and the poetry is in the way they live their lives.

  • Chris Just

    Thanks for those beautiful thoughts, Glenn. I think you’re spot on. A wise man once told me to stick to the basics, otherwise you’ll be forced the hard way to come back to them. I think we’ve gotten so far away from the simplicity of God that we now wander, lost in complexity of our own making.

    You’ve challenged me over the last month or so, Glenn, and I very much appreciate it. I’m an ex-Naval Officer, and to certain degree I mostly believe that violence does solve problems. My respect of the Navy SEALs and other tier 1 special operators comes from the fact that they honorably execute violence of action better than anyone on the planet. That said, since the ’09 jamming of Obamacare down our throats, I’ve found your voice calms my primitive initial instincts on how to respond. When I read the intro to your take on “Common Sense”, you told me “Thomas Paine and his fellow revolutionaries shed their blood so that future generations would have access to weapons immeasurably stronger than muskets or bayonets: the weapons of democracy.” That calmed me then.

    Now a lot’s happened since then. Following the Bundy ranch debacle, I found you to be one of the lone voices calling for non-violence. I’ll admit, that wasn’t my first thought. Heck, I’m a little embarrassed to admit to you that when I heard about the rumor some folks up there were putting women in the front…well, I thought if you’re going to take up arms and get into a firefight with a grossly more powerful opponent, well, that’s not a bad tactic when the women are perfectly willing. But you started talking about MLK and Jesus purely as revolutionaries. You brought up their strategy and tactics. That began the wheels turning.

    What really brought everything full circle is the last few weeks where you’ve been engaging with “strange bedfellows” and standing with them where and when you could. You’ve begun to take the beam out of your own eye by admitting where you’ve been wrong in the past. I’ve started to mirror you and have seen exactly the same thing you’ve reported: it works. I’ve begun reaching out to the friends I’ve belittled and felt were stupid since Obama was elected…I’ve admitted where I’ve been wrong and looked to find the common ground, basic principles we agree on and it’s been cathartic.

    The illegal unaccompanied minors issue that brought you so much heat was another great example of you seeing the bigger picture despite the smoke of this purposely overwhelming battle ground.

    Keep up the great work, you’re going the right way.

    I keep thinking of things I can do that would allow to work together in the future…remembering that you’re looking for doers, not just people with ideas. I don’t know if my business lines will wind up bringing that to fruition, but know that I appreciate the sacrifices you and your family are making…the investment in all of us that pay attention will bear great fruit.

    Thanks, my friend. Enjoy the well deserved vacation.


    • sherlene

      Chris beautifully said !!!

  • Winter Dryden

    We live in a small Ohio river town just east of Cincy so I can relate to this. Beautifully put Glenn, thanks! God bless the small towns & farmers!

  • Anonymous

    Glenn, you are so right! I have grown up in a small farm community in California, I married my High School Sweetheart as did many of my friends and we stayed here to raise our 8 Children. Five of them have stayed here to raise their children. Our little community has grown a bit, and some of the people that have moved here because they liked the feeling of closeness of our little rural community are now complaining about some of the things our Farmers have to do to raise good crops. I know this first hand as one of my Sons-in-law is a 3rd generation Farmer in our community. His family grows Corn, Tomatoes, Cherries, Apricots and Walnuts. You can have the greatest crop of Cherries and one Rain storm at the wrong time can wipe that crop out. Their life is crazy and yet they have farming in their Blood and are perfectly willing to try it again next year. May God bless our Farmers! And may God Bless you for all you do for us and helping us appreciate the small things that are good in our lives! Love you lots and enjoy your family time. I can hardly wait for you to be back on our air waves and TV though! I consider you one of my sons, since you are only 2 months older than my middle son and you looked like his younger brother when your hair was Blonder and you had a crew cut the first time I saw you on Fox! I am an avid listener and supporter ever since. You were the only one that made sense and I immediately fell in love with the humorous way you got your point across sometimes! I have always felt I could trust what you say to be the truth and if you find out you were wrong about something you let us know.

  • Terri Kirk Ridenour

    We need to go to GOD on our knees,Love our fellow man,forgive,LOVE!!!!

    • Lance

      Stand up straight, there’s no God, just this, and THIS is amazing. Remember Jefferson who urged us to question everything, even the very existence of God… that implies there is a different answer possible, the one that embraces the wonder of a world without God. P.S. If there were a God, he’s doing a piss poor job, unworthy of such idolatry.

      • Tyla MacAllister

        THIS is God. There is no other answer to the question,as Jefferson discovered. I pity those who can’t or won’t see that.

      • Lori

        Lance — your words truly make me sad. Sad for you & sad for your family. God DOES exist but more than that, he LOVES YOU and wants YOU to be happy. He isn’t doing a lousy job — he ALLOWS US to learn (and make terrible mistakes) BECAUSE he LOVES us so much — if you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn!

        • Anonymous

          If your children choose to ignore you and do what they want, should we just pretend you don’t exist?

      • Bert31

        If you deny the existence of God, then the logical conclusion would be that he’s not doing any job at all, much less a piss poor one. If there is no God, then everything bad that happens on this earth is the result of human beings in their perpetual imperfection.

  • phil stowers

    My grandpa was a farmer. He was bent over from using a hoe on 2800 acres of farm, but he made up for it by walking on water.

    • Bert31

      That was very well put sir. Your Grandpa is at home with his heavenly Father and is proud of you.

      • phil stowers

        Thanks very much for saying that. I needed to know today that somebody, somewhere is proud of me.

        • Bert31

          I just loved the way you put it, walking on water. When I read that sentence I just sat still for 5 minutes thinking about how cool that statement was. I’m sure many people must have thought of your grandpa as just some regular guy, but to you he was everything. We don’t all need to be famous, we don’t all need to accomplish a grand project. All that matters is having your name written in the Book of Life and all that takes is love and effort. Sounds a lot like your grandpa to me.

      • Anonymous

        We are called to help each other. You sir, did that today for Phil. God bless you both.

        • Bert31

          God bless you too. Encouragement is the essence of spreading happiness.

  • Joseph Boe

    We moved from the metro Orlando area to raise our boys in a town with 2 stoplights, 1 flashes from 7pm until 7am. It is a true blessing to be a part of the life of everyone here. My children may one day run from this life but they will know a life of standing with our neighbors and God. I thank God every night for this opportunity and life that he has blessed us with.

    • Anonymous

      For a minute, I thought we were in the same town. I see you are way south of me and glad you found a place like you did. I am as far north in FL as it gets. we have one traffic light. Great place to raise kids. Blessings.

  • Connor Kenway

    I love my small town. Screw liberal cities.

  • Tim Grover

    Small town America still remembers the American Dream. Imagine immigrating with your parents, farming with them when you were a kid, going to WWII, coming home and working for another farmer for two years to get the down payment for your farm, then paying that farm off by the time you die in your early eighties, thus leaving a debt free asset for your children to inherit. It isn’t hard to see what has happened to America when looking at my late father in laws life, and realizing that what he did with his life is very hard or nearly impossible for somebody to do today. Especially in farming.

  • Michele Moss Petersen

    This struck a chord with me. I am from a small community and now I remember why I miss it so much. Great message Glenn Beck!

  • landofaahs

    Farming is very lucrative Glenn. With crop insurance there is also subsidies that would make a welfare recipient blush. Yet they “WE” do rely on God for growing our crops. But the government through subsidies is trying to undermine the old fashioned faith those connected to the land have for God. I come from a Long, Long line of farmers and although it is not my main income, it is still in my blood and it’s not easy to break the love of the land.

    • zemla

      Yeah, glad you mentioned those subsidies since small government people tend to “forget” that kinda stuff

      • landofaahs

        I’m just being truthful about it. I bought land once that I had to make 5 yearly payments on because of the sellers wanting smaller payments for tax purposes. That didn’t bother me but some of the land was under CRP and I had to keep the program going for 5 years. so in case I didn’t pay them they had some CRP payments to subsidize them. I wanted to pay for it in cash but if I wanted the land, I had to buy it that way. That’s the only government payments from farming I ever took. I hated it. I felt soiled.

        • zemla

          Well I’m glad you minimized your takings and hopefully are doing well outside of them. I live in a rural area but work in indiana’s “region” area, northwest. Very poor and urban, and at home I often hear these guys knock the “region rats on welfare” yet between subsidies and govt secured loans they sure dip into their “fair” share. It’s like, every time budget cuts come up, everyone says “cut it, just not my half, I need that” and then we all wonder why we’re in debt. if we all don’t start suffering some, we will all suffer alot. Now, if only we could rid ourselves of the serfdom called “property taxes”….haha, I can already hear the “proletariat” arguments from the other side….

  • Nanny77

    Glenn, you are so right the further away we get from what is real, God’s creation, the more superficial life becomes. We were meant to be in the Garden of Eden with God,. The closest we will get to that now is in the middle of a corn field or a field of flowers praising and thanking Him for the beauty of His creation. Man decided he wanted to be as knowledgeable as God and ate of the tree of knowledge. He soon learned to be separated from God was not only painful but led to a hunger and yearning for His presence. Many have been caught up in the search for more knowledge only to find spiritual emptiness. Knowledge to serve one’s fellow man can be rewarding, however when used to serve one’s self leads to arrogance and an unfulfilled life.

    As we grow older and learn to appreciate God’s creation, the vastness of the oceans, the beauty of a meadow, lakes and streams filled with all sorts of life, and the peace of the fresh fallen snow, the magnificence of the universe we can barely contain ourselves, as we marvel at what we can enjoy each day, with thanksgiving.

    Thank you for sharing your life on the farm. I will cherish and save this article for it touched me deeply. You are living my dream and I am overjoyed for you and your family. God bless you mightily as you continue to seek Him and feel His presence.

  • Lance

    Don’t need to get up at 5am to start your chores if God is handling it…. let’s give the credit to THE FARMER, who does the work and grows the crops and tends the livestock… God didn’t do that. How amazing WE are when you let go of fantasy and embrace the real world.

  • Shaun Robert Milligan

    I live in a little farming community in Rupert Idaho. And I have to say I enjoyed your appreciation of The Farmer. It reminded me of Paul Harvey’s “And God made a Farmer.”

    It’s beautiful out in this High Plains Desert, Having lived in seattle for half of my life, i will say i don’t miss it at all. The Mass’s of rude people, horrible traffic, crime, etc. Gimme the simple life surrounded by good people any day.

  • Crassus

    Come to my small town, Glenn. Every fourth house has a for sale sign in the yard, the young people move away as quickly as possible, those that remain just sit on the porch all day with shotguns in their laps, and even the lawyers starve. For entertainment you can watch the pill and meth dealers fight each other to make a sale. God bless Obama’s America.

    • Bert31

      Crassus, I hope that the trend that you are speaking of does not spread too much further than it has. At least pray for your town to get better, if you believe in that sort of thing.

  • Rafael Bustamante

    A moving piece. I particularly liked the line: “It seems as we grow rich financially, the more arrogant and spiritually bankrupt we become.” Isn’t that the truth? We need to simplify and share the yoke of building our nation shoulder to shoulder with our next-door neighbours. Thank you for these thoughts.

  • sandyg

    Glenn and family…so glad you’re taking time off to relax and reflect. Thank you for everything you do for us, never stop.

    Chris Just…well said! Thank you

  • Florene Mickelson

    Glenn…you are so right and you say it with such grace and beauty. I grew up in the city, married a farm boy from Idaho, and learned through him exactly what you have described in your writing. It’s crazy, though, at the time I really didn’t appreciate what he was teaching me until well after he was gone. I have been a wido for over 33 years, lived in a lot of those small towns, lead choirs in those small town churches, and I can relate to the feeling you described when, though our numbers were few, because they sang with their hearts, I felt in the presence of real gifts of music.

    thank you for sharing your heartfelt feelings with your audience today. I am most appreciative.,

    Florene Mickjelson, a fan.

  • Nurse Sheila

    I tried to do this also.. in 2006 we moved to a small East Texas town with our last at home, a daughter in 8th grade. We moved to Lindale, TX population 5000 home of Miranda Lambert-I had no idea who she was at the time…We bought an old bank building and opened an antique mall and an Organic cafe. Believe it or not the cafe did great-there were enough local missionaries to keep us going. We could not stay….our innocent home schooled daughter got involved with a “bad boy” from our new church and YWAM. Despite all the Daddy Dates and purity pledges she still gave in…the only way we could get her away form him was to move. That was in 2010. When you moved to TX we left. I miss TX, I was born there and it still is part of me. But praise God 2 weeks ago she married a Godly young man, here in Florida. Sometimes small towns work…for us it didn’t

  • Tina Thompson-Leonard

    One of the reasons why you are such an inspiration to so many of us who do not have a platform to speak from. You are painting in words and on television what our hearts carry in our homes and on our jobs. I love this piece here Glenn, I have yet to read something of yours that has not been on the brink of bringing me to tears cause it’s spot on how I always feel. God Bless you my friend and keep it real-

  • sherlene

    Glen you are so right my husband was raised on a farm in Southern Ohio we we farmed our farms for 20 years before moving back to Houston Texas where I am from to help our youngest Son get a good business start . I miss the morning sunrises where the morning dew lies gently on the grass , I miss seeing the little rabbits hopping around, I miss hearing the morning sounds of birds singing . I miss the smell of the tractors starting their engines to go to the fields for planting . I miss the smell of fresh cut hay . I miss the beauty of seeing the corn and soy beans grow. I miss our small town Cafe where we all gather and share our stories . There is glorious beauty around a farm . But I also find Beauty in Houston just a different kind . So yes Glen I do relate to what you are saying about the Beauty in a small town !!
    Thank you for the beautiful article .

  • Anonymous
  • Todd Rainey

    Tonight I am praying for you and your family from the Wilmington House of Prayer. We are so glad you came to our little town. Rest, recharge, and continue to root yourself in God. Talk to you soon, Glenn.

  • Mike

    People need the LORD…Steve Green

  • Myles Adamick

    That is a great piece. So true. My father was the son of a farmer before and after the depression. There was food but no money. People did help one another and struggled together. In 1933 my father,a heavyweight, from midland, mi., won the free press golden gloves in four amateur bouts. Jack Dempsey’s ex-manager and trainer, Jim Brady and Jack(Doc)Kearns were in attendance. My dad was 18. He quit his ford job to turn professional with these men. He made it rank to rank 3rd behind Max Schmeling and Joe Louis.I have the scrap books. I can’t go to much into this but in a nutshell, he had to fight Roscoe Toles in sept. of 1938 to get the fight with Louis in jan. 1939. He was very ill with the flu and lost big. His managers didn’t seem too sad about it when woke out his coma 30 day’s later. He saw a flyer with without his consent, around Detroit, about his next fight. He knew right there he made enough to help his parents with the farm. He also wasn’t the same after that last fight and he knew it. He never thought about being so close to the championship…just being there in time for his parents. Glen, you are keeping that spiritual thinking alive. The world is a better world with your wide reach. Ford took him back with no time missed.

  • Anonymous

    I agree but we live close to where you staying and farmers do not pray for when to plant. They just know. They are God’s caretakers of this earth. Our ward choir rocks, btw. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between us and MoTab. :)

  • aphil

    love this… this small town girl would not trade anything for the lessons and love I have been blessed with from such humble people of integrity … we learned to garden, we learned respect, we learned to clean a fish, we learned to love God, we learned that it is not all about our own selfish needs

  • Anonymous

    Glenn, I have worked all my life to go from city girl to farmer. I now manage a ranch and whenever things get nutty I walk among the horses in the pasture. I see God’s wisdom and calmness in their eyes. And they share it with me. I can breathe in the pasture. God Bless you and your family and all the folks at the Blaze. You are doing God’s work.

  • Anonymous

    Glenn, I have appreciated your messages in the past few weeks, that lead us to be more loving and forgiving. The words you have spoken and written have helped me tremendously to give up the negative feelings I have had regarding the downward spiral our country has taken in the last 6 years. God bless America…and those who work to save our country.

  • Zotter

    Great message Glenn!
    I enjoyed reading your well written story.
    You’re experiencing a treasure that was
    once America at it’s best. It’s nice to know
    that it still exists someplace.

  • Akitawoman

    I read once about Steinbeck’s 6 months of work interviewing and reporting in San Francisco newspapers about the Okie migrant refugees trying to get by in the Central Valley of California. They were despised everywhere they went. Steinbeck cared about them as humans and it comes through in The Grapes of Wrath. He deliberately chose a very Biblical title for his book.

  • Justin Wheeler

    Currently live in Blackfoot Idaho. We raise a large garden and sell the produce at the farmer’s market. Truely a blessing to see each crop come on and produce. It is a challenging life but it helps make ends meet. We don’t only sell at the market, we also sell off our property, we also give away a lot of the produce, we eat many meals from this garden, and we do a lot of home canning to make sure we sustain ourselves when we don’t have a productive garden during the winter. It is a challenge to make sure we plant early to be the first with the produce to market, yet protect from the late spring frosts. Then again later in the fall gathering in all the squash and pumpkins in anticipation of the coming winter. We would not trade it for the world. It is our hope that our children learn the value of a dollar earned and that we earn all that we have in life by the sweat of our brow. I would not want to raise my children any other way 😉

  • Daniel Halverson

    That was beautiful.
    Those last two paragraphs say something so important and so true, and so simple.

  • Kathryn Kunchick

    You are right. I love living in a small town. Our family moved as far away from the city as possible. The increased quality of life is worth the commute that comes with it. Despite the fact that we are close to a military base and the town has been steadily growing, it still has the small town feel. The big chains have finally made their way out here, yet the employees are country folk with kindness in their hearts. People are still connected in our town. When you drive the streets of our neighborhood you are greeted with a smile and a wave. My neighbor brought us homemade muffins last week because she knew that I was no longer able to cook for my family. It made me smile despite feeling absolutely terrible physically. I love ending the night talking with neighbors. Before moving back to our little town just a year ago, the night ended in front of a glowing screen of some sort. I am just fine if our town stays off the map. I don’t want the hustle and bustle of the city and the disconnectedness that comes with it sneaking into our perfect small town. The town next to us is on the map, but that’s only because there is a person claiming to be a 25,000 year old spirit that lives there, along with her school of enlightenment. Maybe they are crazy, but they think the same about us. We all get along and help each other despite the differences. I love our town, and I thank God every day for leading us back to where we needed to be.

  • Carolyn C.

    So well said!! I live in the small town next to the one you are talking about. We moved away for 4 years and couldn’t wait to come back!! My husband travels the world and sighs a huge sigh of happiness and relief every time he returns. The simplicity, richness and strength is hard to find in other places. So grateful for our heritage and our religion!!! It is everything!!! Thanks for being who YOU are!!

  • Carolyn C.

    …and even though he travels, my husband still keeps a piece of ground and his farm equipment to hold onto and instill in our children the great heritage of the life we grew up with. So happy!! Sowing and reaping in it’s most basic form!

  • William Nichols

    Excellent portrayal of ‘small town USA’ Glenn!! This is where people truly ‘live’ and not simply ‘exist’ as a tiny cog in a huge spinning wheel of decaying morals and values!! Keep on keeping on my friend, and God Bless!

  • Joshua Strunk

    Thus the reason the Jefferson desired to see America be a nation of self-sufficient family farms (the impetus behind his Louisiana purchase). He even warned that all the vices of Europe would infest this continent if we allowed ourselves to be herded into cities & lost our appreciation for the sacredness of the agrarian life. Of course its biblical as well. Genesis 1 states that the design for humanity was to be connected to the creation by cultivating & protecting it, individually & in community. In fact this is what the whole of the Hebrew scripture describes as true prosperity. Unfortunately those who desired a paradigm shift in society have woven a narrative which tells us that this simplicity is anti-progressive & foolish, because the easiest way to win a revolution is to get people to believe a lie before they ever know the truth.

  • Ruth Ann Young

    Glenn, I love small towns, too. I grew up in one and have never been sad that my parents chose to raise their kids there. It’s true that less ‘culture’ is readily available, but it can be easier to find out what really matters in life in a small town.

  • Merri

    I grew up in Idaho, your words made me cry…that’s what I do when my heart is touched by the truth.

  • Heather Estevez

    Bravo Glenn! Once again you touch my heart and move me to tears. Enjoy your vacation and the much needed rest!

  • Anonymous

    Wow .. beautifully spoken .. but I’m not surprised, Glenn. If anyone can say it, you can. Thanks!

  • gee-enn


  • Donna

    Well done good and faithful servant of God.Perfection as always Glenn.The world and all its materialistic “things’ are just that ,no substance to them .Now the farmers they have substance.What they have is made with there own hands,not store bought.Blood ,sweat and I am sure some tears went into what they make and have. Jesus as we know was a carpenter and carpenters son when he walked this earth. Why? he could of choosen a much wealthier profession Doctor,Lawyer ,Billionaire perhaps. But no he wanted to be one of us everyday hard working people .He wanted to be a person of substance.Amen .God Bless you & Yours .God Bless America.Shalom my friend.

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