"I was born in Iowa. My parents are both Iowans. Born 1950. And then in 1955, my mom and dad realized they weren't financially making it. My dad was a teacher. And then my mom would run a dance studio out of the basement for a little extra money. She was a graduate of the Chicago School of Dance.
     "So in 1955, we took a trip to California. And in 1957, we moved to California. My dad got a teaching position out there. And we ran a college dormitory. So I lived in the dorm with a bunch of girls with my folks. And we did that for three years and then we built a home. So, I grew up in California. But coming home to the Midwest I was always coming home. That felt like Grandma and Grandpa's place, and it had connections. So when I met my husband in California and he was a Nebraska boy I knew what I was going to get into, I guess you could say. So [we] came to Nebraska. I was a little disappointed because around in York County the land is flat. Now I was expecting it to be like Iowa with the hills, with the farms on the top of the hills and the silos. But my husband said, 'No, Honey, for irrigating you want flat land.' [Laughs.] So anyway, we were married a year in California and then came out because I knew my husband wanted to farm."
     [Question:] "Why did he want to farm?"
     "Why did he want to farm? Let me think. Farmboy. He grew up on the farm. His dad had worked in town until he was about five or six years old and then his father began farming and they moved out to the country. My husband did everything with his dad on the farm. He rode tractor with him… My husband was just 'on the tractor.' And he smiles while he's on the tractor, all the time. [Laughs.] He never stops smiling."
     [Question:] "But you weren't a farm girl."
     "No. No. And that was a bit of a change. I grew up in a small town, but compared to the town I live in it's quite big…
     "But anyway, we thought we'd live there about eight years. And then I applied for teaching positions and we came out at Christmas. And I interviewed with Mr. Ron Pauls, the elementary principal, and Alan Friesen who'd been the superintendent at the time. And then I did some interviews around the area where we were living in California. And we just kind of said, 'Whoever called first for the job, that's where we would be.' … And I got a phone call from Alan Friesen and he offered me a teaching position. And I hung up the phone and I said, 'Calvin, we're moving to Henderson.' …
     "You know, first year teaching that takes up your whole time. They say if you can survive your first year of teaching you can survive anything because you're just still getting into the curriculum and understanding what's going on. That first year, I just remember teaching. That's basically what it was, getting through the days. I had a wonderful group of 27 first graders. And I'm now teaching their children. So that is really exciting."
     [Question:] "There used to be a time when on the farm meant isolated, culturally."
     "No, not anymore. I mean, we have wireless Internet at our house. We have DSL. We have, have all that. So, you're not isolated anymore. Not like it used to be…
     "I really think that urban America should care about rural America because, truthfully, rural America is the foundation. It's the roots. It's the 'where you come from.' It's the 'who you are.' I think that's a Wendell Barry quote. The foundation of who we are is rooted in stories. It's finding about where you come from and who you are. In the Midwest, I do know, my dad was a superintendent of schools in California. And he said a superintendent out there would hire a Midwest graduate [finger snap] like that. Because they know they had a good education, a good foundation. And they were usually very, very good teachers. And I think we're known for that. But we stabilize, I think, the rest of the country sometimes. We are stable. Sometimes we don't change much. But maybe that's not so bad. Maybe it's OK to stay the same. It's OK."

Suzanne Ratzlaff – Moving to a Small Town


Excerpts from Suzanne Ratzlaff’s Interview:

Rural vs. Urban Life
Rural Women
Declining Towns
Urban Problems in Small Towns