Shipping up to the Sticks

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By: Tessa Kielbasa

Asst. Photo Editor

“Oh, you’re from Massachusetts? What’s it like living in Boston?”

Actually, no. I live about two and a half hours from the City on the Hill, and everyone seems to forget about those of us who live out in the “sticks.”

I personally think that Western Massachusetts is the forgotten gem of New England. When everyone thinks of the New England fall landscape, no one envisions the beautiful, single cluster of trees standing in the Boston Common. Instead, they are likely thinking of the rolling hills and the quaint colonial neighborhoods in the Berkshires.

Some New York City inhabitants often have lake houses or summer homes out in the sticks on the Otis Reservoir, and that’s because Western Massachusetts is simply better than their other options.

Even with all the amazing facts, we don’t get the respect we deserve from not only the eastern half the state, but also from the rest of the country.

We recognize New York as having the city, Long Island, Upstate, and that awkward middle part that no one knows what to call. However, in Massachusetts, they somehow lump us in with Boston. I don’t go around calling Albany “New York City.”

If you talk to someone from Eastern Massachusetts about living in the western half of the state, they’ll probably think that most of us are the biggest rednecks to ever walk the planet. They are convinced that all of us are pig farmers, and all we do is listen to country music.   

I live in the sticks. I accepted it a long time ago. I live a solid half hour from a mall and a movie theatre, and forty-five minutes away from a decent hospital. If you drive in any direction ten minutes out of my city’s downtown, you are going to drive past a farm.

Honestly, my house is one of those farms. I own cows, I can drive a tractor, and I spend my summers picking up bales of hay. Yet, I can still acknowledge there is another half of my state.

Despite the common misconception, “here be dragons” is not actually on the Massachusetts map for the western half of the state. There are sophisticated towns, cities, and even some small villages thrown in there too. But regardless of everyone forgetting our existence, we have plenty of amazing things working for us.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst and Amherst College both reside in the “irrelevant” sticks. Westfield State University attracts students from all over the state as well as the surrounding area. The biggest bonus of living out in the sticks is that the Big E takes place here every year. We have one of the biggest events in New England and still people count us out.

When I decided to come to Sacred Heart I thought that I would not be in a minority of Massachusetts students. On a good day, my house is only an hour and a half drive to campus while anyone from the Boston area is almost three hours away.

However, I quickly realized there are not many students from Massachusetts in general. The number drastically drops when the population is narrowed to people from the sticks.

I wouldn’t have traded growing up living out in the sticks for anything. I swam in rivers and lakes, I went hiking all the time and I played outside every day of my childhood.

No matter where you are going out in the sticks, everything is a beautiful and scenic drive. While we don’t have the great city attractions, we definitely have a character all our own.

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