Community Columns

Keep nice, little valley towns such as Denair nice and little

When my family moved to Denair four years ago, it felt like we had moved to another country. Although we were only a few short miles from the Turlock apartment we had left, it seemed like a completely different environment.

Some of these differences stemmed from the fact that we had outgrown our two-bedroom apartment and now had the luxury of additional space, as well as the added responsibilities that come with homeownership. But much of the change was due to living in a tiny bedroom community, surrounded by agriculture.

This was quite different from the thriving university neighborhood where we had lived for seven years. We saw houses being built, sold and resold. We saw empty lots turn into successful shopping centers. I spent many hours pushing a stroller on nicely paved paths through the beautiful grounds at California State University, Stanislaus, which was virtually in our back yard.

Turlock is a lovely town, and we enjoyed living there. It has everything one reasonably could want in a small town, particularly since Target and Costco arrived. There are more great places to shop, eat at and do business than ever before.

However, growth comes with a price. I missed driving by the cow pasture on the way to the freeway. I was sad when my neighborhood stroll no longer passed the pumpkin patch, corn field or scenic views, all of which had been ripped out to become new housing. Huge speed bumps were placed at annoying intervals in the middle of good shortcut streets for the sole purpose of ticking people off so they would use other routes. Then our street was capped off, with a ridiculous entryway that required convoluted turns. It was a bit amusing, unless you lived there.

Denair has charming old houses, well-established neighborhoods and a few trees that look positively ancient. The residents not only know each other, but their kids grew up together. For a while, I felt as though I had walked into a club without a membership. Before long, however, it felt like home.

My favorite thing about living in Denair has always been the farmland that surrounds it. I soak in the peaceful views as we drive past fields of alfalfa, corn and cattle. I love to breathe the fresh country air, even if it smells like cows. I'll take the sweet bovine smell over the stench of mechanical fumes any day. The agricultural land in the valley is one of the most precious natural resources we have. I've always loved the orchards and fields, the livestock and crops that flourish here and am thrilled to live so close to some of it now.

Although growth has crept in, I hope the county will keep it under control. Surely, we don't need any more houses in a state where the foreclosure rates have been making headlines. What we do need is to keep nice little towns nice and little.

Brogdon, the mother of four, lives in Denair. E-mail her at