Letter Re: When You Get Here

HJL,

Having moved to a small town from a large metro area 23 years ago, and I found this article to be of interest. Although all the suggestions in this article are universally good and applicable to anyone moving into any new community, the brief mention of a drug and alcohol problem with the admonition to “stay out of bars” needs some more attention. There is a serious, escalating drug and alcohol problem in rural communities that, in fact, do “stay out of bars” as there isn’t enough room there. Around here, farmers post signs in their fields stating “these fields are fertilized with swine manure”, just to remind city cats that there are other odors in the country besides the roses. Furthermore the rose bushes in the countryside have got just as many thorns as their city cousins have. My sign to potential newcomers would be “These communities are permeated with drugs, bankruptcies, divorces, suicides.”

Any vision of rural or small town living as being a refuge from the rapidly crumbling society and culture is naive. Small town communities are in fact experiencing it at a far faster pace with far more destructive results than in large metro areas due to abundant apathy and little or no resources to counter it. The drug networks know that this is an “easy place”. Residents in these rural/small town communities will travel 40 miles daily to get to jobs in the one or two industries that support the local economy, but the pervasive fear of their departure is always there. And when it does happen, which it frequently does, the effects of the ensuing economic depression can bring despair, desolation, civic breakdown, and an exodus of youth.

I can see the closest farm from our backyard. If I were to pay that farmer a visit and ask them, for instance, how to sharpen an axe, the workers would direct me to his office where I would find a well-dressed man in his late 40’s sitting at a desk going through satellite field reports over multi-display computer monitors. “Sharpen your axe?” he’d say laughing. “What do you think I am, Amish?” In fact I did visit the local Amish, and I don’t know if they offer axe sharpening services, but they do sell brand new name brand axes of the highest quality. As I leave, I notice a small shed that is outside the edge of their property. I’ve inquired about what that is for; it is where they keep their cell phones, cordless drills, and work radios, as it is forbidden on their home turf.

I do not regret our move. It has worked out well despite the challenges we encountered. However, along with the advice about being a good neighbor “when you get here”, before you think about getting here, think twice about coming in the first place.

Mr. T.

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