Cultivating Curiosity and Conversation
Across the Urban Rural Divide
Episode 4: Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed
Ralph Summers is a mailman, bus driver, taxidermist and preacher living in Dagmar, Montana. In this episode, we explore the history of rural mail delivery, the value of neighbors, and what it means to have faith. Ralph shares stories of miracles he has seen on the road, how he finds inspiration for his sermons and his experiences with the healing power of prayer. Megan discusses the spiritual background of her childhood and how her faith is no longer tied to a specific faith tradition.
Reframing Rural is dedicated to sharing stories directly from those living in geographically remote and sparsely populated regions through podcast episodes and photographs. By elevating unexplored stories and everyday wisdom directly from rural residents, the podcast adds color and complexity to the larger cultural narrative while celebrating culture, preserving history and cultivating empathy.
Telling stories of people and places not fully represented in the media or pop culture is at the heart of Reframing Rural's mission. TedGlobal speaker and writer Chimamanda Adichie recognizes this phenomenon as the “danger of a single story.” Single stories, or stereotypes of rural people in the news leads to their dehumanization, further wedging the divide between city and country, republican and democrat, and myriad binaries that are uncreative and damaging.
For those with a rural background, Reframing Rural provides a place where people’s experiences can be validated. For those generationally removed from their rural roots, the initiative inspires curiosity in rural Americans whose stories cannot be told through election maps or newspaper headlines.
Note from the Founder
Imagine you’re holding a camera and adjusting its focus. At first you make the flower in front of you the focal point. Then you bring the hills in the background into focus, guiding the viewer’s eye to the landscape just beyond the flower. Reframing Rural is a new initiative that seeks to refocus or reframe rural issues through storytelling in a way that paints a fuller picture of our collective story.
My name is Megan Torgerson and no matter where I live I will always be from rural America. It’s been 11 years since I left my family’s farm and ranch in Northeastern Montana, but the prairie has never left me. I’ve lived in over five towns and cities from Alaska to North Carolina and witnessed stigmas and misinterpretations of small towns spread as the urban rural divide is widened by politics and the media. It seems to me that people have become less interested in getting to know one another and more concerned with labeling the "other." I want to change that.
Stories cultivate empathy and I believe they have the power to connect us all. I’m excited to have you along on this journey and invite you to “put yourself in someone else’s boots,” as you experience stories of hope and resilience from the wide and wild Northern Great Plains.
Season 1: Coming Home
Reframing Rural's first season, Coming Home, is set on the ancestral lands of the Assiniboine peoples, now known as Northeastern Montana. Here the primary industry is agriculture and tourism is limited to hunting. The population has increased only slightly in the last decade due to the neighboring Bakken oil formation, but many who grew up in this part of the state are aging and moving to warmer climates, or leaving for bigger towns offering more opportunity.
Season 1 features stories of: a well-traveled farmer; musician and playwright; retired country school teacher; a man who works as a mailman, bus driver, taxidermist and preacher; a mother of school-aged children employed in the oil and gas industry; a high school teacher teaching American history through an Indigenous lens, and a farm family navigating retirement.
Coming Home not only raises awareness about Northeastern Montana, but also offers Sheridan County residents a platform to celebrate and reflect on their unique experiences. In order to reframe Eastern Montana and rural issues at large, we must lay to rest sweeping generalizations of rural America being a place lacking in comparison to its urban counterpart. Reframing Rural does this by shining light on the rural experience and embracing the power and responsibility of storytelling.
Reframing the Narrative on Rural America
Megan Torgerson launched Reframing Rural while an MFA student at Seattle University. Watch her thesis presentation Reframing Rural: Rewriting the Narrative on Rural America from June, 2020.
It takes a community to tell stories and we want you to be a part of ours.
Stay in touch!
reframingrural (at) gmail.com
Interested in supporting the production of this podcast through a one-time donation? Venmo the founder Megan Torgerson @megantorgerson. If you would like to become a monthly supporter of Reframing Rural through Patreon, visit www.patreon.com/reframingrural.