What continues to be right about rural America

Dave Bergmeier

The challenge Americans face was already tough enough without the complications of COVID-19. That’s when we need the reinforcement about what is right.

Attending the recent Dodge City, Kansas, Roundup Rodeo, provided an entertaining  respite as announcer Boyd Polhamus told the crowd about how the industry, from contractors to athletes to entertainers to the host communities, felt the impact of the coronavirus and how the industry has taken the pandemic seriously. He noted some rodeo organizers had to make the painful decision to cancel performances this summer.

During the Roundup Rodeo, Polhamus noted the rodeos that could soldier on were seeing top-flight performances as organizers were rightfully encouraging people to take care of themselves. His comments also included numerous references to Phillipsburg, Kansas, with its “Kansas Biggest Rodeo,” as another community on the circuit that continued its commitment to safely give it a go.

As we work through the impact this pandemic has caused—events such as rodeos have provided local health officials a chance to review and give their approval—attendees can feel secure about their own mental and physical health. In rural America people want to play it safe and yet understand there are risks that go with everyday living.

We understand that much lies ahead because of this pandemic. Markets have shifted and election cycles have made us feel jittery. In looking back over time every generation has faced tough stretches that appeared insurmountable and yet having a strong belief and family structure kept them—and us today—on a straight line.

If you travel the High Plains it does not take long to see people are not as dismissive about the virus as perhaps in the early days of the hot spots that were generally removed from rural populations with the exception of communities that have meat-processing plants. Today we have a better handle on it in those communities.

Of natural concern is the impact it has on the residents and staff of senior care facilities that provide an important service to our elder populations. We need to make sure those residents and staff members stay healthy and as a new school year nears we need to do the same for students, teachers, administrators and support staff. We are all judged by our actions on how we treat those most vulnerable from effects of a pandemic.

People crave normalcy and security. It is a natural instinct no matter if you live in Wichita County or Wichita, Kansas. The rodeo performance in Dodge City provided athletic competition with a sense of rural values we seek—a belief in God, a sense of patriotism and support of law enforcement, health care workers and first responders.

When you live on the High Plains generations have provided wonderful intrinsic benchmarks on how to respond to a crisis and also to look for ways to find hope. It is a lesson learned that we need to continue to follow with confidence.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].