America’s Frontier Counties–One Man’s “Frontier” is Another Man’s Suburbia

In 1890, the US Census Bureau made its pronouncement that America’s western “frontier” was closed.

One television program that the Memsahib really enjoys re-watching now and again is the PBS series Frontier House. That led to a discussion of when the frontier officially closed. While researching that, I stumbled into the National Center for Frontier Communities web site. They have a very loose “by consensus” definition of what defines a “frontier” county. This map shows the absurdity of their definition. I suspect that they made the definition loose, so that participants can qualify for government grants. If you look at the Year 2000 US Census data, it is a far better gauge of who actually lives in truly remote rural counties. For example, in California, only 2% of the population lives in frontier counties, but in Wyoming the figure is 73.9%.

The generally accepted threshold for “Frontier” population density is six or fewer people per square mile. But to this day, there is no official definition of what “frontier” means. By my definition, less than 100 counties in the Lower 48 States could still be considered truly “frontier.”

So here are some of my subjective estimations of what constitutes a present-day frontier county:

When a tree falls down across the county road you don’t even bother calling the county road department. You just get out your chainsaw.

You know the names of all of the neighbors in a five mile radius.

A shopping trip sometimes requires buying more than one tank of gasoline.

There won’t be cellular service in your area for another 5 or 10 years, but nobody really wants it, for fear that it will attract yuppie land buyers.

Nearly every conversation includes the phrase “Get ‘er done!”, and nobody thinks that its a humorous reference.

The only factor that keeps you from having the lowest car insurance rate in the nation is the high number of deer collisions

Your friends’ most closely guarded secrets are the locations of their favorite fishing holes and berry patches.

The nearest grocery store also sells fishing bait, propane, ammo, Ivermectin paste, and T-posts.

One out of every five vehicles that you pass on the highway is a quad ATV.

The standard greeting for two months of each year for men, women, and children is: “Hi! Did you get your elk yet?”