This last week we took a trip to the rural setting of my parents’ origin. People with my surname have been in a couple of those counties since long before the Civil War. Several of my ancestors fought in the War of 1812 against the Creek Indians, and against the British at the Battle of New Orleans.
Today, very few of the descendants of those early settlers are left in that country side. The old family farms are now growing trees. In the early twentieth century one could drive down those dirt roads, passing one farm after another. That’s not the case, today.
The farms have disappeared, sometimes replaced with double-wide mobile homes that would look better in a junk yard. Sometimes, junk cars litter front yards. The old home county is getting to be a mess.
My cousins who remain there tell me that meth amphetamines are a huge problem with the younger generation. They worry about gang wars in some of the larger towns. Still, many country people send their kids to college so that they can do better than to stay at home where there are few jobs outside of the timber industry. If the younger generation forsakes education, they are doomed to lives of uncertain income, and even poverty.
There just aren’t enough jobs to go around, not even burger flipping jobs.
Those of us whose parents left that part of the world have prospered in today’s cities. Hope is disappearing from rural America. The scenes I have projected above are repeated throughout the rural south and Midwest. Unless there is a factory or other industry local to the rural scene, what are today’s rural youth do do?
They country farms of our youthful vacations and trips are gone. Family farms are almost extinct. Populations have been shifting since the mid twentieth century, and they are still moving away from rural America.
There are TV shows where rich people are buying horse farms, or large tracts of land. I don’t see where this will bring back rural economies. They have changed forever.