Worth the Trip

It’s an oxymoron for sure, that Worth County has the lowest per capita income in the whole state. The lack of economic development assures miles of green rolling farmland, and not much congestion. Where I found them, the people are friendly, and it’s obvious that people in this area like to have fun.

In testament to the belief that money can’t buy happiness, in this poorest county, I found the world’s greatest small town. It’s not a tourist mecca. There’s nothing that immediately grabs you by the eyeballs. Allendale may be the cleanest, neatest, most functional little town I’ve seen. In the quiet downtown, only a block long just off Hwy 46, a curious sign hangs on one building front: B&W Widget Industries. Nobody answered the door, so I peeked into the windows to see tidy tables, ready for people to assemble widgets, or eat dinner. The proprietor of the restaurant next door, the Old Towne Cafe, said she’d been next door to the widget company for six years, knows the owner, but still isn’t sure what they do, what they make. It’s refreshing, albeit a bit mysterious, that in a town of 54 people, the neighbors don’t know everything about each other.

That doesn’t stop them from listing every resident on their website. What other American town has a complete town roster online? The website also promotes the Allendale Community Betterment Club , which has “one mission in mind, making Allendale a better place to live, work, play, and visit.” The Allendale Community Betterment Club has been the hub of the wheel that keeps things rolling in the right direction. They even maintain the roads. Across the street you can hear the distinctive crack of a cueball busting the billiards at Allendale Pool Hall. The town sports a nice city park, with a big red corkscrew slide in the middle, and fronted by a monument commemorating Allendale’s centennial, 1855-1955. There’s a tire store, and a volunteer fire house, and some other tidy buildings. And income? 2,500 rodeo fans pack the town every year for the Allendale Rodeo, a sanctioned United Rodeo Association event. There are dozens of rodeos in Missouri every year, even in towns with less than 400 people, like Hume and Downing and Green Castle, and even tiny Barnard. But this double digit town is the smallest venue, next to Bible Grove, of course.

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