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The middle of nowhere?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rural America gets a bad rap much of the time.

I've lived on the outskirts of a 25,000 population town, a couple miles from a town of 190 and now pretty much in the middle of those numbers as one of Spencer's 11,233 residents.

Numbers intrigue me, which is probably why an AP video about the population center of the United States intrigued me.

It's not St. Louis or Kansas City or Chicago.

Heck, it's not even Des Moines.

It's 2.7 miles northeast of Plato, Mo.

Never heard of it?

Plato is a tiny, little village -- that's its technical name -- nestled in the Ozarks.

Just how tiny is this village? The U.S. Census is actually quite generous with its population estimate of 109, according to Plato Village Clerk Barbara Pinkston, who says the population is 91. The village's sign advertises just 74 residents.

Pinkston says the nearest "town of any size" is 30-35 miles away.

She and other residents are stoked about the new designation.

"This is the center of the U.S. population; it just doesn't seem it ought to be -- good old rural America," resident Andy Justice said. "I just think it's an honor.

The owner of the town's eatery, Oris Weber is tickled pink.

"This deal here we got has brought a lot of people in and I think it will bring a lot more people in," said the proprietor of Weber's Cafe. "People like to see something new. So, we're kind of glad to have it and see if we can't make good come of it."

Resident Brenda Starbuck thinks some good has already come of it.

"We think this is a very wonderful thing about Plato being the center of the U.S. population," she said. "It's created a lot of interest among the students in the school and everyone in this area. ...We always knew we were the center of the universe."

Starbuck's comment reminds me of something I used to say.

In various towns that I have lived in, I have boasted, "I'm in the middle of nowhere and the middle of everywhere at the same time."

On the same day when a story about people leaving the Great Plains for "sunnier" cities surfaced, it's good to know there is still life in rural America.

Hopefully Mayor Bob Biram, Clerk Pinkston and other residents of the village can capitalize on their good news and grow their community.

Perhaps a catchy slogan could help.

Here's a few suggestions.

"Pluto isn't a planet anymore, but Plato is still a village."

"Plato, we're named after a really smart guy." (Yes, the Greek philosopher is the town's namesake.)

"Play-Doh is fun, and so is Plato."

"Who wants to be lucky number 110?"

"Think Plato is bad? At least we're not Licking." (Licking is a town 29 miles from Plato).

"Desperate Housewives wouldn't be the same without us." (Screenwriter Josh Senter came from the village.)

"We still get AM and FM radio!"

Maybe Pinkston already had the best idea, though.

"We're gonna be on the map now!"


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SOUNDS LIKE MY KINDA TOWN. I WONDER IF THERE'S 100 ACRES SQUARE FOR SALE THERE? I WOULD MEASURE IN FROM EACH CORNER, BUILD MY HOME AND BARN, BUY WHAT I COULDN'T RAISE AND LIVE OUT MY REMAINING DAYS HAPPY. OH YES, I'D HAVE THE LAZIEST PACK OF HUNTING DOGS THIS SIDE OF THE MISSISSIPPI.ONE MORE THING, I'D TRY TO FIND A SPENCER LADY TO TAKE WITH ME.

-- Posted by MEMOBLACK on Thu, Mar 31, 2011, at 8:35 PM


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Gabe Licht
Junior Moments