When people talk about America, they often picture it out as the land of greener pastures. And in part, it has been the main motivation for people to go see this part of the world. Many people dream of coming to and living in America because it is the land of milk and honey where you get paid in dollars but they tend to forget that while you earn in dollars, you spend dollars too. If you look at the current American demographics today, a big number of the population are comprised of foreign immigrants who found a new home in the land of Uncle Sam.
Most immigrants actually settle down in big cities where there are plenty of job opportunities for smart and skilled workers like them. However, to really experience authentic American living, go visit or live in small US towns where everybody knows everybody, residents leave their doors unlocked, and crimes are generally low. These small towns show you what the real US of A is all about and shows you a glimpse of American history and culture that is now mostly lost in big and crowded cities.
The Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget calls for deep cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, including a 21 percent reduction for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the town of Goldendale, Washington, population 3,400, is one of many rural communities that could see those budget cuts at USDA and other federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, play out at the local level.
These agencies are deeply involved in rural life and economics in America, managing vast federal lands across the West, as well as rivers and streams, mining and energy development, air quality, fire suppression and hydropower.
Goldendale is on the high, dry prairie east of the Cascade Mountains, surrounded by farms and ranches. Like many small towns, the downtown is struggling, with boarded-up storefronts sporting “For Lease” signs next to long-established shops and restaurants.
It is never easy living in the heart of America. True-blooded Americans face the harsh realities of fewer opportunities and lacking federal support, a common sentiment felt by those living in small American towns. Add to that the challenges posed by climate change on crop production or poultry farms; it can take its toll on an ordinary small-town farmer.
While completely abandoned towns like Okaton may be unusual, it exemplifies a much larger pattern of rural flight. As young people flock to cities to pursue jobs and education, the demographics of rural America have become older and whiter. According to The Atlantic, rural areas lost an average of 33,000 people a year between 2010 and 2014. In 2016, just 19% of Americans lived in rural areas, compared to 44% in 1930. One of the reasons for the draining of rural areas is the migration of jobs to more densely populated cities. As the American economy has shifted from agricultural to industrial to technical, automation has replaced many of the jobs that rural areas have traditionally been dependent on. For example, in 1900, 40% of Americans worked in agriculture, and today fewer than 2% do.
As jobs became automated and fewer people were needed to run farms, rural men and women moved to cities, where opportunities for education, higher pay, and better jobs were abundant. They never came back.
You can taste the despair in towns like Okaton, the slow death creeping in through the weeds in the sidewalk and the fallen chips of paint. For many of these towns, the only hope of survival is the intelligent promotion of self-employment through technology. However, when surveyed about their county’s economic strife, most residents of Jones County hoped for a return to the past, for a return of the railroad or lumber companies that once ushered in prosperity. However, just like rural dwellers who moved to cities, those jobs will never come back.
Many of these small towns now look like ghost towns because most of the residents have long since packed their bags and abandoned their homes in search of their fortune in bigger cities where education and employment opportunities are plenty. Indeed, there are pros and cons to living in a small American town like just about anything else there is.
But despite its flaws, you can’t deny the beauty and allure of living in a world not yet tainted by modern living. It would even be better if dilapidated and faded store signs get a new lease on life but really, small towns have a unique appeal that not generally appeals to the masses but it gives us a grasp of what life used to be in America when it was less crowded and things were much simpler.