My Life In A Ghost Town
I recently read a post about someone who is trying to figure out why Rural America is so pissed off. He spent eight years interviewing Americans who live in small towns all over the country. This is what he came up with: Rural Americans are pissed off in general because life has moved on without them and they are basically scapegoating the system — ie the federal government.
He missed a huge point. I always wonder why everyone is so adverse to history. They look at one fallen domino and can’t even begin to imagine how it got to that place.
Let me tell you a little bit about what happened in the Rural America I grew up in — population 1143.
Small town America was a great place to raise kids. My parents had a thriving business — a Mom & Pop place set right next door to probably 50 or 60 more in this quaint, well kept town. A town just like the next one seven miles down the street.
We didn’t have a McDonalds, so we ate our burgers at a real diner, owned by another local family. The word franchise hardly existed and then only in the ‘big’ city. Every business owner knew every other one. They meet for Rotary Club meetings monthly at the Italian restaurant next door to my parent’s motel.
There were farms. Heaps and heaps of farms. You could go to a local dairy with your own gallon jugs and they’d pour you some milk for a dollar a jug. Everyone had a garden and deer meat in their freezers.
The people that didn’t have businesses worked in ‘the city’ twenty five miles to our north or south. There was big business there. Universities, IBM, Singer-Link, airports — all sorts of corporations with good solid paying jobs. Which also allowed the small businesses in these bedroom communities to thrive because people spent their paychecks in my town.
But the jobs went away. Singer moved out. Then IBM. The airport lost airlines with consolidation — hardly anyone flies into those airports any more. The small businesses in the communites started to feel the pinch. There began the fall of the dominoes.
Farms, businesses, trades that had been handed down from parent to child for generations went bankrupt. Sold out. Children moved away, joined the service, went to college if they could — they did what they needed to do to find a future. Because theirs had been downsized, sold, off shored, deregulated. By Corporate America and a Federal Government who allowed it to happen.
Now my home town is in Fracking Hell. Because that is a resource they can sell and survive. It literally buys the town a few more years of life. Is it good? Is it bad? Only time will tell if this turns my home town into another Love Canal or Flint. It might simply give them a momentary financial bump until Corporate America sucks that resource dry and leaves their environment only raped but more or less intact and still liveable.
My home town doesn’t resemble the place I grew up in at all these days. Some of the Mom & Pop places remain. The Italian place next to where I grew up is still there and run by the founder’s youngest son. I stop in every time I’m in town. But mostly it’s a ghost town. Rural America is angry. And I don’t blame them.
I live in the suburbs and have for the past twenty three years. The anonymity it provides me is a welcome relief. I enjoy the diversity of people, food, and entertainment my present life brings me. I don’t think I would be happy going back. But that is not to say I wasn’t happy when I was there and the people who chose to stay shouldn’t have the ability to sustain their way of life.
Please don’t blame the hard working people of Rural America for their perdicament. They got up every day — every — damn — day — and did their job. It was work they loved. Businesses they owned, farms they worked, trades they mastered. Right up until it was all gone. They have every right to look at Corporate America and the federal government as the forces who pulled the levers behind the curtain.
Because Corporate America and the federal government pushed over the first dominoes that got us to this place.