Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rural Poverty - The Invisible Poor

Urban poverty captures attention from the newspapers, which are, after all, urban. But what about rural poverty? The hired man who has one too many kids. The laborer who can't find a farmer to help. They are unemployed, but they never had an employer.

You have corn meal mush for breakfast. It makes a yellow mountain in the bowl. On good days, there's a little bit of butter melting and making a lake in the center and a moat of milk around the sides of your little mush mountain. On really good days, there's brown sugar to mix into the butter lake. This is what we ate in Ohio in 1950.

You don't drive into town but once a week. Do all your business then. Stop by the dump on the way in, come back with groceries.

I tied a second knot in my shoestring once and realized that if everything was spaced just right, it would work perfectly fine. But a third knot would not. Two was the max. It didn't make sense to put on a new pair of shoestrings until both left and right shoestrings had knots in them.

The schoolbus comes and takes the kids to a piddly little school down the hill. One classroom per grade. Oiled wood floors and old glass in the playground. Old teachers.

That was the outer world.

The high school - the better one, in the next county - taught two courses of study - shop and agriculture. What else was there to prepare for? Where else was anyone going?

Rural families today are in a similar plight. Rich in fresh air, poor in other resources. The cost of going into town has made life marginal. Perhaps the new lowering of the price of gas will ease this. But until Congress sees their need, poor rurals are a forgotten population.

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