Sunday, August 16, 2009

Feeding the town of Geraldine

With barely a population of 300 in and around Geraldine, you might pass right by the town without stopping.

The main street has a bank, a grocery store, a beauty parlor, and a family cafe and bar, Rusty's. The open sign at Rusty's is a bit faded.

Sadly, there are also many boarded abandoned buildings, too.

There is a refurbished historic train depot, but the fact that it is considered historic and not presently in use is another indicator that Geraldine is not a growing community.

But step inside the general store and you'll find a lot of optimism about the people of Geraldine. Tammey owns the store and was happy to chat about her daughter, who is heading to her first year at Montana State in Bozeman.

I learned a lot about how important sports are in Montana. The Montana State (Bozeman) Bobcat supporters are fiercely loyal as are the University of Montana (Missoula) Grizzlie supporters. Don't get between the two when they are arguing about the best team.

I also learned something about how a community stands together and about the way that community feeds itself.

Tammey is determined to make sure the grocery store stays viable in town. Her family bought the business a few years ago when the co-op that was there closed. Tammey's mother added a plant business and the whole family hangs out there, even four-legged Tootsie.

Tammey tries to buy things locally made, including the popular sports paraphernalia with logos of the Bobcats and Grizzlies, made by a local ranch woman. The town's school colors are emblazoned on clothes supplied by a company that contributes 8 percent of profits made from sales of the clothes to the school itself.

When the milk supplier stopped delivering to rural communities, Tammey and her family bought a truck to pick up milk and other supplies in Great Falls, 80 miles away. On the weekly trip, the truck also brings food for the school and the cafe.

Geraldine is a real community, Tammey explained to me. People watch each other and make sure the kids behave. In fact, the kids seem to be raised by the community, giving them an edge over children raised in places where even meeting the neighbors is an iffy business.

In passing, Geraldine may look quiet and about to close down. But stay a while, talk to the people, watch the children dropping bikes on the sidewalk to run into the store for treats, and you'll soon realize that a vibrant community is determined to continue for the next generation.

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