I thought I’d explored the entire map of Miami County; that I’d crisscrossed every gravel road from Jingo to Stanton and up through Hillsdale and Louisburg.

But as time has passed, I’ve realized that no matter where I go there are infinite things to uncover.

All maps are paper thin. Start digging beneath the surface and you’ll no sooner realize that at any given point there are endless stones to turn over.

Situated in the middle of the United States, it is commonly thought that the typical Miami Countian speaks with a neutral American English accent. In many ways, this is true; but this does not mean that citizens here do not have an accent. Anyone that speaks has an accent, even a dog barking.

It may sound odd, but there is actually a wide range of dialects spoken across Miami County. Ope, ‘scuze me, now here’s the story with that: More than once, upon returning home, I’ve been halfway through a conversation with someone I’ve known for my entire life when I’ve started noticing that they have certain subtle verbal peculiarities such as a drawl, a twang, or a unique emphasis on particular turns of phrase.

Welp, sir or miss, if you read no further than here, please be sure “to tell your folks that I said hi” and that “I’m staying out of trouble.”

Much how linguistic patterns can be compared to populations near and distant, the meter and flow of life in Miami County is slower than in some places and faster than in others.

Like any civilization, Miami County is beholden to its own signature timestamps: the circulation of traffic follows a specific well-worn pattern; the shrill whistles of the Union Pacific trains that roll through towns blow at more or less the same times every day; and each local business is met with its hustle and bustle at intervals that are predictable depending on the time of day and year.

Layer upon layer, life in Miami County can be experienced by even the most seasoned citizen anew.

This past August, during a brief stint in Miami County, the first loud peal of thunder I’d heard in the last five years sent a ripple down my spine of primal fear-inducing terror. My time away has deconditioned me. I’ve grown so accustomed to the gently falling rain in Paris that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be in a serious storm.

If I’ve forgotten such things, what else has slipped away? What other treasures are out there scattered around the place I was born and raised?

In my trips home, I’ve had conversations with cashiers that have brought me to both tears and laughter. I’ve had meaningful exchanges with strangers while pumping gas at Casey’s, drinking coffee at The Jackson Hotel and when passing someone while on a run around Miola Lake.

Though I don’t personally know most of the people I’ve encountered, each time I’ve met someone new in Miami County, the same thought has entered my mind and brought me comfort: these people are from the same place I’m from. In a way, they are my kin.

We all share a common land. We are the constituents of a place that is prone to generating spontaneous kindness. We are from a single point of origin; a place from which some of us will wander off and come back home again only to rediscover what was always here.

Miami County is a land of good people; a land that has much to be appreciated in the human and natural worlds and beyond. With time, all of these familiar things might have a tendency to lose their luster; but that is not the way it has to be.

What would it be like if we wiped the dust off from the ordinary? What would happen if we put a mental gloss on the things that surround us every day? What if we were able cast our eyes upon our homeland in such a way that we could see it as if we never had before?

What stunning glory would we see if we looked skyward and knew that the stars above Miami County were shining with more sparkling brilliance than almost anywhere else that people live throughout the world?

There is a reason why Powell Observatory (home to one of the largest telescopes that the United States has available for public viewing) is located beneath the pristine skies of Miami County.

Whenever I see a map, I look for home. It is most often represented by a dot among other countless dots. What else is our little blue planet in the sprawling map of the universe?

There are endless things to discover around our towns and homes: history, love, life. Miami County is full of natural wonder. The most exciting of these things lie in the mysteries still hiding in what we’ve come to consider as familiar. There is no end to the adventures that await us in our own backyard.

Aaron French is a 2006 Osawatomie High School graduate who lives and writes in Paris, France.

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