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OT: Hello from Washington State!


Regular Member
Jul 21, 2010
Enfield NH
Yes. And this is the way it is in the vast majority of the country. For people who live "outside of town", that doesn't just mean outside the compact area, it means completely outside the town limits. For most American who live "in the country", the county is their first level of government.

Sorry if you don't like Wikipedia, but there's a good summary there.


I can cite for you the figures for my hometown in Polk County, Arkansas. There are six incorporated municipalities in the county. The total area within all six city limits (combined) is 21 square miles, versus 862 square miles for the entire county. And what's within city limits isn't just "compact"; some of it is pretty darn rural.

The total population of the six municipalities is less than 8,000; the county population is over 20,000. Those 12,000 people don't live inside any city or town. Their first level of government is the county. They don't vote for a mayor or council or board, they vote for the sheriff, county judge, and justice of the peace. Those offices are the local government for them.

Here's the map. The gray or red areas are city limits (every municipality in Arkansas is a "city", no matter how small). All that white? Yeah, that's the part of the county with no city/town/municipal government.


Want another example from a completely different state? My wife is originally from Dubuque. Like all midwestern counties, Dubuque County is pretty large, with one metro area and a few small towns. The 21 municipalities take up 44.5 square miles of land, versus 617 square miles for the entire county. Total town population is 73,647, versus 92,359 for the county. Those 9,000 people who live "in the country" don't have any municipal government; they vote for sheriff, and the three at-large members of the county board of supervisors. That is their only local government.

Here's another map, same as above, but for Dubuque County Iowa:

This is how it is in the United States outside New England, New Jersey, and Delaware.

So when those people call up 911 and the operator asks them where they are, what do they say? "In the middle of ******* nowhere"?????? Lol..


Regular Member
Aug 7, 2007
Granite State of Mind
So when those people call up 911 and the operator asks them where they are, what do they say? "In the middle of ******* nowhere"?????? Lol..
Pretty much.

Actually, there has been a massive effort to assign exact street addresses to rural homes over the last 20 years, with the advent of 911 and Enhanced 911. When I was a kid, my address was (no kidding), "by the tree in the middle of the street". The one time we had to call the fire department (no such thing as 911 in the '70s, not there anyway), that was the address we used. And this was inside the city limits. Everyone in town knew where that was; for those from a town or two away, it was "turn west by the rock store, then go to the tree in the middle of the road".

We got our mail at a P.O. Box, obviously. There were street names, but no house numbers. It's only the last 15 years that the house where I grew up got a street address, and my parents started getting home mail delivery.

When it comes to giving addresses, it used to be based on one of two things: school district, or mail delivery. With massive school consolidation, kids from two, three, or even more towns all go to the same school now, but the Post Office assigns addresses based on which town's post office handles the delivery. So, someone who doesn't live inside a town will still have an address of "123 County Road 456, Anytown, Arkansas". Before that, it was "Take the old highway, turn left at the old Parsons farm, turn right by the chicken house..."

Living so close to the state line now, I have a co-worker whose physical residence in Arkansas, but his mailing address is Texas (because his mail box is across the road, in Texas). He has a phone number in one Arkansas town, but lives in a different town's school district. And because of his mailing address, his cell phone has a Texas area code. He has one helluva time getting the right agency to respond when he calls 911 about the meth lab down the road.

This really is the way it is in most of America: you can have a mailing address from a town you don't live in. And that was my only point, trying to make it clear to someone from a western state that New England is very different in that regard.
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