Small Town America

Abandoned Small Towns-2.jpgMy InSearchOfAmerica project takes me through literally thousands of small towns that once had a population a few hundred or less, and the vast majority of them are basically hollow shells of what they once were.  We have to face the fact that “small town America” is a thing of the past. It was a 20th century phenomenon that simply outlived its time.

When most of us worked on the farm it took a substantial local infrastructure to maintain our lives. We needed a place to buy and repair our farm implements, to buy our groceries, fill up our tanks, and get our haircuts.  Of course small towns were the answer. Now that only a small fraction still work in agriculture that infrastructure is settling in the dustbin of the ages.  No amount of “Make America Great Again” will bring it back.

It often gets depressing to go through so many basically abandoned towns where nothing is there but a post office and a few homes. If I let these abandoned towns get to me I falsely come to believe that America is in decline but in reality the scenario has just changed. Unfortunately too many people are left in places where prosperity is no longer possible.  The Malaise caused by this condition is perhaps one of the primary reasons of our current political condition.

Abandoned Small Towns-4Being a US history nut, the one thing I have come to realize is that the road ahead is often much different than the roads already traveled. Things change and if we don’t change with them then we face a bleak future of longing for a past that never really existed instead of embracing a future of possibilities. It is up to each of us to do what is necessary to stay current in the world so that we can still believe that anything is possible.

What to do about small town America is perhaps the question for our times. Do we just continue to subsidize those who have chosen not to move to other opportunities? Do we accept the fact that poverty is an endemic part of our historic landscape?  I am a social progressive for the most part but I think that sometimes we need to force people to do what they should have done in the first place.  If you want to live in an isolated area by all means do so but don’t think its others responsibility to help you to try to maintain a past lifestyle.

Abandoned Small Towns-3Small town America is for the most part a thing of the past…. Once we accept that idea we can move on to solving problems due to the migration from rural to urban areas.

 

We Are A Country Better Than This!

2017 is proving to be a brutal year for the USA. The personal and very vicious attacks from the early morning Oval Office are so demeaning and what is happening in congress to take away healthcare from millions of us is almost evil. In spite of this I hold out the belief that we as a country are better than this and that the 45th president along with his congress will go down in history books as a temporary blip of insanity and poor voter judgement. It will quickly be forgotten when it finally ends.

But, will that really happen? I can only dream that on this very patriotic 4th of July.

We have been and will again be a country better than this.

 

Antique Tractors…

ISOA Banner  I spent a couple of summers during high school as a farm hand. A lot of it was putting up hay but some was helping with the planting and harvesting.  I hate to admit it but some of these antique tractors were the same models that I drove during those years.

Everything is being automated now. Even the tractors are beginning to be driven by GPS enabled robots. Less then 1% of us are now working the land. Its good to look back on the past to see where we have been.  I enjoy the continuing tractor shows here in the Midwest. Read more

Take Me Home, Country Roads..

ISOA Banner   When I was hearing I enjoyed the songs of John Denver, especially his 1971 album with “Take Me Home, Country Roads”  about West Virginia. I certainly enjoyed my visit to WV in 2011 and yes it did have a lot of beautiful country roads.

Click on any picture to see a larger slideshow view

An especially delightful time was at the State Museum in the capital city.  I think it is the best I have ever visited.

About Brexit and the British.. And How We are NOT Like Them

2016-07-19_15-09-10.png241 years ago we were part of the Great British Empire. We were loyal, although complaining, citizens. Then we chose to go our own way and eventually after a four year rebellion got our way. We still have common bonds with GB but we are also markedly different. One of the major differences is that we are a nation of immigrants and Great Britain is a nation embedded in aristocracy.

We until recently have a classless nation. We don’t hold people in higher esteem just because of what name they have. America became known as the land of opportunity. A place where anyone with the right opportunities and drive could make their fortunes.  I say until recently because since the 1980s, I always like to put the blame on the Reagan administration, we simply did not allow massive fortunes to flow from one generation to another.  For the super-rich inheritance taxes were often 90% or more.

In the last one hundred years, but especially the last thirty, wealth began to flow  with very little taxes from one generation to another. That results in people like Paris Hilton getting massive fortunes from their great grand parents. That fact separates us into the “haves” and the “have nots”. Paris has never known what it is like not to get her every whim and wish fulfilled with no effort on her part.  Unlike Britain we don’t put perpetual titles on our gifted.

Getting to the point of this post, many people fear that since GB chose to exit the European union that it might be a signal that we will also do something radical such as electing and egomaniac narcissist anti-immigrant person as our president. Given that we are a nation of immigrant and the most part unprivileged  that is not likely.  Of course this election will test that theory to the max. It all depends on turnout. Presidential election turnouts have typically been in the mid-50% range. That is, only about half of us bother to show up at the polls.  We are perhaps the worst in established democracies in that regard.

It will soon come to a point that the majority of us in the U.S. will no longer be WASPs. Over 40% of us claim heritage of a different nature.  Whereas Britain is still very much entwined with a whites only society. It has been pretty well established that immigration was one of the primary reasons for the Brexit vote.  The well established citizens could see the “British way of life” changing too quickly for them and because they are still a significant majority they were able to say “no more immigrants”.

The ethnic diversity of the U.S. is unique in all of the world. It has allowed us to empathize with oppressed countries around the globe and as the plaque on the Statue of Liberty says  we don’t put a monetary or class requirement on those who want to come to join us.

Happy July 4th… And…

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First of all I want to hope everyone has a good day on this important national holiday. 240 years ago a bunch of rebels got the idea to make a nation based on freedom of choice. The exact right group got together to hash out the details and those details have allowed us to for the most part flourish since then. I thank God for the wisdom of our founders. If only we could get a little of that today, especially in our presidential campaign… but that is another story.

Now comes the “And” part of the title.  In yesterday’s post I talked about the strange, at least to me, fascination with our country’s wars. Some make it a major part of their lives to recount every battle in our biggest failure as a country and that was the Civil War. They celebrate our biggest failures? Some, especially in the south, look back at the pre-Civil War days as the time when America was at its greatest.

Too many are too fascinated with our wars!  Even our national anthem glorifies the little-known war of 1812 and particularly the battle of Fort McHenry in the Baltimore harbor. Some say that war was chapter two of our war for independence. I believe we as a nation of immigrants are much greater than our wars.  For that reason, I would love to see a drive to replace our current national anthem with “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.

Our National Anthem should celebrate the beauty of our land and our success as a people who cherish our land everyone who fills it.  Woody Guthrie’s song epitomizes that feeling.  I will close out here with the lyrics to again say:

Happy July 4!!!

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

(Original 1944 lyrics)

Indiana History Fest (one more time)…

From what I can find on the Internet it doesn’t sound like kids today get much of a history lesson. It seems most can’t even name the current president or know who many of the founding fathers were. That is sad indeed. If you want to get a kid to know something about history the easiest way is to get them involved as shown above. I bet every kid (now grown up) in the picture above remembers that event. History is definitely worth learning if for nothing else than to help us not make the same mistakes…

Indiana History Fest 2002

One of my favorite things to do is to go to events with reenactors. They bring the history to life. This and the next few posts will be from the Indiana History Fest in 2002. It was the last one that they did. I guess the funding dried up as is so typical of our times.

Virginia City..

Virginia City, NV – I have been to many “old west” towns in my day but Virginia City Nevada is perhaps the most unusual. It is primarily a tourist town but that doesn’t take away from its authenticity.  They take great pains to keep the exterior of the town true to its heritage.

Washington Slept Here…

Washington HeadquartersI have lost track of exactly where this house was located but I’m pretty sure it was around Gettysburg PA. According to the mural found at the site as shown here is was the command headquarters for George Washington at some time during the Revolutionary War. So I’m sure Washington did sleep here 🙂

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is very much what America is about.  He was a famous architect in the late 19th century. He designed that is known as a “praire house” which was a very distinctive style.  This one in Springfield Illinois is called  the Dana-Thomas House and is among the best preserved and most complete of Frank Lloyd Wright’s early “Prairie” houses

Sod…

The “Great American Desert” as it was called at the time was opened up for settlement in 1862 by President Lincoln. The picture here was taken almost thirty years ago so I don’t really remember exactly where it was. Since the area was for the most part without trees they used the centuries old sod to make their houses.

A New Start…

Trenton, NJ — Crossing the Delaware

The picture above hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The victory at Trenton signaled a new life for the War for Independence. Likewise it signals a new direction for this blog. Not only will I be giving you quick one-shot glimpses of what I found to be the heart of America, I will also be putting up detailed reports to my visits to several places around the country. These visits will be accessed by clicking on the button selections at the top of the home page.  I will announce each new entry with a blog post here.

The Resignation…

Washington DC – Resigning His commission

Lets finish up this year with the famous picture as described below. It hang in one of the many galleries in DC.  Here is what the government website says about it:13

The painting General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull is on display in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. This painting depicts the scene on December 23, 1783, in the Maryland State House in Annapolis when George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. The action was significant for establishing civilian authority over the military, a fundamental principle of American democracy.