The Death of Rural America: A Cautionary Tale

I grew up on a farm in rural America. Specifically, in the area between San Francisco and Sacramento California. When one thinks of these areas today, thoughts of deep blue California communism, oh, I mean socialism, or maybe just California liberalism come to mind. This area of California was not always the liberal bastion that it has devolved into today. So, what went wrong? What I’m about to write is a cautionary tale about how small town America slowly dies.

The small town I, and my father before me, went to high school in had a population of 3500 people in it when I was in high school. Rio Vista, California had vestiges of the era when it had amenities more commonly found in the “big city.” When my father was in high school the town had a movie theatre, doctors’ offices (with a doctor and nurses who all lived in the community), banks, bowling alleys, and other services. Rio Vista also had nearby dairies and meat markets (they were actually called slaughter-houses, but I don’t want to freak anyone out). Rio Vista, by most standards, was a community that could stand independently without much needed from outside. By the time I was in high school the bowling alley, meat market and movie theatre were out of business and the doctor’s office provided only minor services. Additionally, local drug stores and other businesses were struggling to stay afloat. A once thriving main street was starting to show signs of dying with vacant businesses where local merchants once were.

Our town grocery store was locally owned. As was the town’s hardware store. I remember the residents of town lamenting having to pay “a few bucks more” for stuff that they could get in the bigger cities that were about 35 to 45 miles away. So many people living in Rio Vista chose to drive out of town and buy things. Similarly, the generation before started driving out of town for their entertainment. In both cases these same people who drove out of town to buy things or watch movies lamented the ways of the big cities. Ironically, they also felt sad as one by one by one the local businesses closed down.

I also remember, though I was too young to fully understand the situation, when a large grocery chain wanted to move into town. This resulted in a split in the community over the issue. One side was overjoyed at the thought of cheaper goods coming to town. The other side didn’t want “outsiders” coming into town. The votes in the council meeting were close but the big franchise store was kept out. I hasten the day that the community has to vote on that again.

Another dynamic that happened over the years was the small town becoming what is known colloquially as a bedroom-community. People from the big cities surrounding Rio Vista started moving out of the big cities to escape crime, taxes and other unpleasantries that were not found in the small town. These people typically had little vested interest in the small town. They commuted daily out of the town to their big city jobs. This also caused another related issue, traffic. What were once small rural roads occupied by people living in the area with farmers regularly moving their tractors from farm to farm down the small roads were now commute routes. And these people who moved from the big cities were often heard complaining about traffic and the farmers, taking up the roads.

I have since moved far away from California. People often ask if I ever want to go “home.” In my eyes my former home is gone. It was consumed by progressive policies and liberal people who have destroyed the way of life that once was there. But I moved halfway across the United States into a community that is shockingly similar to where I grew up.

Garrison North Dakota still has a small movie theatre, local grocery store, full doctor’s offices with emergency services, meat market that actually butchers locally grown livestock and what is a pretty thriving main street. All in a town with a population of less than 3000 people. I feel like I’ve rewound the hands of time at least 40 years.

And this is where the cautionary part of this tale comes in. I hear locals where I now live complaining about the prices in the grocery store being “a few bucks higher” than in the big city 45 miles away. Or that there’s nothing to do in town, so they go to the movies or bowling out of town. And these things break my heart because I know where they lead. And I am compelled to say to these people that if they don’t want to lose their way of life, they need to reevaluate some things. First, PAY THE EXTRA FEW BUCKS LOCALLY! Consider the extra money an investment protecting a rural way of life. Go out to the movies in your smaller local community. Spend an evening bowling at the smaller local bowling alley. And don’t be so eager to see the latest franchise move into town. Failure to heed my warning could result in everything you now know in your small town dying, all because you wanted to save a few bucks.

I could go on about the need to be aware of local zoning, housing proposals and other things that inadvertently change the dynamics of communities. These things all play a role in the death of rural America. I’ve chosen to start a movement for the protection and preservation of rural America. If this is an issue that you’re interested in follow the American Monitor page. We will be writing about our efforts to prevent our rural way of life from dying and giving you ideas on keeping your rural way of life.

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