Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wildfire in the rural West

A few weeks ago I heard a short news story on NPR on a Sunday evening about the residents of  Missoula, Montana lining up along the roads by which the vehicle carrying the body of a fallen firefighter would travel.  The body of Brent Witham, who had died when a falling tree hit him as he fought the Lolo Peak fire, was being returned to his southern home, via air transport from Missoula.  The corresponding story from The Missourian newspaper reads in part:
The body of California Hotshot Brent Witham will be transported to the Missoula Airport Monday morning in a procession that begins at 9 a.m. in Missoula.

The route will start at Garden City Funeral Home, 1705 West Broadway St., and head west along Broadway to the Aerial Fire Depot.

The Forest Service organizers are asking people to line Broadway between the funeral home and the Reserve Street overpass by 8:30 a.m. For safety reasons, the public is asked not to line or park on Broadway west of the overpass.
I thought when I heard the NPR story:  what a "rural thing to do."  Maybe, in particular, it is a western rural thing to do--honoring a fallen firefighter who was doing a very risky job to protect people he didn't even know.  Montanans understand that risk and sacrifice, as do so many other rural folks.

Witham was with the Vista Grande Hotshot crew based in Riverside County, California, part of the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest.  When his body returned to California, he was not similarly honored by the people in his community.  Instead, fire vehicles  joined a vehicular procession to remember and honor him.  

I wonder what to make of this difference between Montana (where Missoula is actually "urban") and California, especially given the rural base of the Vista Grande Hotshots, near Idyllwild.  

I'm in Montana now, the southwestern part, en route to Yellowstone National Park.  A cover story in  yesterday's Bozeman Daily Chronicle was about a recent small fire north of Three Forks, a bit west of Bozeman.   Two youth were being charged with setting the fire, which burned about 250 acres.  A heading on the Chronicle's website is "Fire Line," and another story there is "Western Montana Full of Fire Activity."  Folks in the lovely shops on Main Street yesterday mentioned that the air in Bozeman had only just cleared, thanks to rain, from the smoke of a nearby fire.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Poignant tale of a return to Mexico, from rural Iowa

This is from Jack Healy's NY Times piece, dateline Hampton, Iowa, titled "Stay, Hide or Leave?  Hard Choices for Immigrants in the Heartland." 
Now, at this tense juncture for immigrants and their adoptive hometowns across the conservative swaths of rural America, Ms. Rivera planned to sever one last tie. She was returning to Mexico — and to her husband — with Steven, 13 years old and American-born. 
Some politicians call it “self-deportation.” She called it her family’s only hope of being together. 
Edith Rivera's husband was deported in 2015.
The heartland is freckled with Hamptons and Ediths. In small agricultural towns that supported President Trump by 20-point margins, residents are now seeing an immigration crackdown ripple through the families that have helped revive their downtown squares and transform their economies.
The story also features the role of the local Franklin County sheriff, Linn Larson, who was elected on promises to crack down on undocumented immigrants.  Previously, the county was on national lists of immigrant safe havens.  Franklin County's population is just over 10,000, and it is northwest of Cedar Rapids.

While the paragraph above refers to "conservative swaths of rural America," it also depicts Edith Rivera's strong connections to the community, including to non-Hispanic whites.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

On "barefoot lawyers" (a/k/a paralegals) serving rural India

The New York Times ran this fascinating little piece last week about Namati, an organization that trains paralegals in rural communities in India, (villages, I suppose they would say) to help fight for rights, including clean air and other environmental rights.   Tina Rosenberg's story, part of the Fixes series, describes an environmental injustice in Bogribail, a village in India, where IRB Infrastructure Developers is the culprit.  But the reason to read this story is to learn about India's "barefoot lawyers," paralegals who are also community organizers who teach residents to press administrative agencies for relief.   Here's an excerpt about what happens next in Bogribailt, after, that is, villagers asked the government for compensation were denied:
 Villagers did not ask IRB or the government to stop or diminish the pollution, because they didn’t know that the factory’s practices violated numerous regulations. 
Then Maruti Gouda took the case. 
He’s the opposite of a superlawyer.  He is 29 and not a lawyer at all, actually — he attended college but didn’t graduate. Like his father and most of the people in his nearby village, he’s a clam harvester. 
Gouda is employed by Namati, a nonprofit organization that works in a number of countries in Asia and Africa, as well as in the United States, "to democratize law."  Vivek Maru, an American lawyer, founded the group in 2011.  Here's a quote from Namati's home page:
More than four billion people around the world live outside the protection of the law. They are driven from their land, denied basic services, and intimidated by violence.

We advance justice by helping people to understand, use, and shape the laws that affect them.
The Namati website also has this description of these paralegals:
they are trained in basic law and in skills like mediation, organizing, education, and advocacy. They form a dynamic, creative frontline that can engage formal and traditional institutions alike.
The term "barefoot lawyers" is a play on "barefoot doctors," the term sometimes used for Chinese rural peasants who were trained to dispense health advice and health care during the cultural revolution.

The absolute best line of the NYT story is from Maruti Gouda's boss about the role of Gouda and his "paralegal"colleagues' key roles on their home turf:
We can always teach them the law.  We can’t teach them to be from here.
I can't help wonder about the ways in which this model might work in the United States to empower rural residents who are afflicted with environmental and other injustices.  A little cultural competency from locals, who will also be able to cultivate trust from community members, seems critical.  Unfortunately, I could not find any examples of Namati's work in the United States on the organization's website, though a search for "United States" on the website did bring up a number of institutional connections, including, for example, to the Environmental Law Institute and to studies of access-to-justice issues in the domestic context.

On Sears Roebuck and its demise

The New York Times has a big feature today on Sears, "The Incredible Shrinking Sears."  Of course, the entity used to be Sears Roebuck and Company, and it was associated with the massive catalog that showed up one a year in your mailbox, in late summer, with a smaller follow-up for the Christmas season.  The focus of Julie Creswell's story is how a "financial wizard took over" Sears and "presided over its epic decline."  But I want to take a moment to be sentimental about what Sears used to mean in rural America.  Here's a salient except:
At the turn of the 20th century, as Americans established roots across the nation, they turned to Sears. Through its robust mail-order business — some catalogs were more than 500 pages — Sears shipped groceries, rifles, corsets, cream separators, davenports, stoves and entire prefab houses to some of the most remote regions of the country.
As Americans moved from rural communities to larger cities, many no longer needed to shop by thumbing through the catalog; they preferred to visit dazzling department stores. Sears began opening hundreds of stand-alone retail stores, some with soda fountains, dentist’s offices and pet shops alongside tombstones and farm tractors.
The comparison to amazon.com is inevitable, of course.  Sears was the amazon of its day.  The rest of the story is, quite frankly, too depressing to describe--read for yourself what Edward S. Lampert, that Wall Street wiz kid, has done to Sears Holding Company, all while essentially telecommuting from his home in Miami, rarely setting foot in a Sears store.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Eclipse visitors expected to overwhelm pockets of rural America

Eclipse craze has hit the nation, and in the West, where I live, I'm starting to hear a lot about the impact that eclipse tourism is going to have on rural communities.  One data point I heard is that the population of Wyoming is expected to double on August 21, eclipse day.  Of course, that's not saying a lot, one might say, given that the state's population is only about 585,000, and it's a big state (the 10th largest in land area) with lots of eclipse territory, so it won't take a lot for visitors to overwhelm residents.  

This piece on The Outline is datelined Glendo, Wyoming, population 205, a town that has run a crowdfunding campaign to help defray expenses (e.g., portable toilets, extra trash cans) associated with the anticipated tourism overload.  Here's an excerpt that highlights the rural angle on the eclipse.
The total solar eclipse, the first visible in the U.S. since 1918, has been named the “Great American Eclipse” and could shape up to be the country’s biggest temporary mass migration to see a natural event ever. And it is bringing rare economic opportunity and attention to small towns along the eclipse’s path of totality, or the area where the full eclipse will be viewable. 
Along with the potential to rake in significant tourist dollars comes the fear that small, rural communities do not have the infrastructure to accommodate an influx of visitors. At least one town, Glendo, Wyoming, is looking to crowdfunding for help. The town is home to 202 people and takes up less than half a square mile of land. But thanks to its prime solar eclipse viewing location, it is expecting 70,000 to 100,000 visitors. Town clerk Brenda Hagen has launched a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of Glendo to raise $20,000 to pay for sanitation expenses like portable toilets and trash cans. 
Like other rural eclipse hotspots Driggs, Idaho; Madras, Oregon; and Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Glendo residents have the opportunity to earn good money renting rooms, homes, and temporary campgrounds the night of the eclipse. What’s less sure for Glendo and communities like it is what the cleanup will look like and how many strangers will be willing to help. As of this writing, the town’s campaign has raised just over $3,000.
I've also seen/heard a few stories featuring Carhenge, in rural Alliance, Nebraska, population 8,491.   Here's a story in the Denver Post, and here's one from NPR.  This is from the Denver Post:
Townspeople here in western Nebraska’s sandhills have been toiling for three years to get ready — right down to the logistics of diesel backup power and baking cookies for foreigners. 
They’re bracing for a potentially chaotic rush of people converging on the eclipse’s 67 mile-wide “path of totality,” which runs from Oregon beaches to South Carolina, spanning Wyoming and Nebraska. This ranks among the most accessible total eclipses ever, with an estimated 47 million Americans living within an hour of the shadow. Suddenly humans, whose ancestors feared eclipses as harbingers of disruption, are flocking like crazy to be in them. 
But no matter how much planning towns and cities do, the unexpected and irrational loom.
* * *
But for residents of Alliance, with its brick streets and 1880s buildings, the eclipse is emerging as a tangible and overwhelming reality requiring wide preparations. And, in an isolated rural town, mobilizing for a deluge of unknown guests is done with a sense of duty. 
The crowd will include visitors who think nothing of paying as much as $10 for a hamburger, Solar Eclipse Task Force co-chairperson Becci Thomas told residents last week at a final prep session. But merchants must not gouge, she said, repeating a civic warning leaders have been repeating for months. 
“This is your chance to shine,” she said. “You’re having company. Be as nice as you can.”
As for the piece on NPR, it said some of the same things, but particularly encouraged tourists to take advantage of the spreads of food that the churches in Alliance would no doubt have on offer.   Kevin Howard of the town's visitors bureau is quoted:
Howard says the town is planning concerts, a 30-team softball tournament, a Native American powwow, plus all the churches will put out their best spreads. "There's nothing better than a meal at the church," he says. "Those ladies put out the good stuff."
Like the Post reporter said, the folks in Alliance realize it's best to hope you can entice visitors back again, not to treat them as one-time prey.

Space, time and maternal mortality in rural America

That is the subject of the Wall Street Journal's latest installment in its series, "One Nation, Divisible."  The story by Betsy McKay and Paul Overberg is titled, "Rural America's Childbirth Crisis:  The Fight to Save Whitney Brown."  An excerpt follows, with a focus on time, distance and--implicitly--how distance is time.  Certainly that was the case for Whitney Brown, the woman whose death in childbirth was featured to illustrate the perils.
Since the start of the century, it has become more dangerous to have a baby in rural America. Pregnancy-related complications are rising across the U.S., and many require specialized care. For some women, the time and distance from hospitals with the resources and specialists to handle an obstetric emergency can be fatal. 
In 2015, women in rural areas died from pregnancy-related complications at a rate 64% higher than the rate in large cities, a reversal from 2000, when cities suffered a higher rate of such maternal deaths.
The reasons reflect shrinking resources, worsening health and social ills. Most rural hospitals don’t have high-risk pregnancy specialists who can treat sudden complications. Many don’t have cardiologists or anesthesiologists on staff. Making matters worse, rates of obesity, a major risk factor for pregnancy complications, are higher in rural than urban areas. 
Many rural hospitals have eliminated labor and delivery services, creating maternity deserts where women must travel, sometimes hours, for prenatal care and to give birth.
Over the decade between 2004 and 2014, the number of rural hospitals offering such services declined by 15%, compared to a 5% decline among suburban and urban facilities.  Among the reasons for the decline:  the closure of hospitals, a decline in birthrates, and challenges securing malpractice insurance.  The story notes that some women in rural Tennessee get no pre-natal care whatsoever.

The personal face of this story is Whitney Brown, a young woman who died after giving birth by emergency C-section.  She died, at least in part, because she could not be transported quickly enough from the rural hospital in McMinnville, Tennessee, population 13,605, to Chattanooga for specialist care.  One reason:  only two of Warren County's five ambulances were allowed out of the county at any given time, leading to a 3-hour delay in the transfer of Brown, whose heart stopped shortly before she reached Chattanooga.

Incidentally, The Economist has a story this week about the high U.S. maternal mortality rate, compared to other developed countries.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

John Ikerd on "Economic Colonialism" in rural America

John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri, delivered a stirring key note address at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society in Columbus Ohio on July 29.  That lecture has now been reprinted in Rural America In These Times.  Here's an excerpt:
I think “a growing sense of impotence and dread” accurately describes the prevailing mood of people in rural America. Fred Kirschenmann, a distinguished scholar at the Leopold Center at Iowa State University, has observed that the “predominant attitude toward rural communities is that they have no future. In fact, this attitude seems to prevail even within rural communities.”

He quoted from a 1991 survey conducted in several Midwestern rural communities indicating that people in most rural towns harbored one of two visions for their communities. “One vision sees their town’s death as inevitable due to economic decline.” The other vision is also of “a dying town” with only a fading hope that “they can keep the town alive by attracting industry.” The widening rural-urban divide since the early 1990s seems to confirm a transition in rural attitudes from impotence and dread to desperation and anger.
That was Ikerd's first point in agreement with Margaret Wheatley.  Read the whole piece to learn more about the other two points with which he agrees with her:
1) “A growing sense of impotence and dread about the state of the nation,”
2) “The realization that information doesn’t change minds anymore.”
3) “The clarity that the world changes through local communities taking action—that there is no power for change greater than a community taking its future into its own hands.”
Number three, as you might imagine, is the most hopeful.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Trump's trade policies hard on farmers (or at least on agribusiness)

While some political commentary suggested that many rural Americans were drawn to Donald Trump's candidacy because of his tough stance on trade, it turns out that some rural areas--or more precisely, some types of farmers--may be badly hurt by the ditching of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade pact negotiated by the Obama administration.  Politico Magazine ran this big feature a few days ago, "Trump's Trade Pullout Roils Rural America."  The dateline is Eagle Grove, Iowa, where a massive new meat processing plant is being built.  But the story illustrates the risks from the current trade environment to rural America and/or to farmers by reference to an agribusiness enterprise--the one building the Iowa facility, but which is based in North Carolina.  There's actually not much emphasis on individual producers.  Here's an excerpt:  
The gleaming new factory is both the great hope of Wright County, [Iowa] which voted by a 2-1 margin for Donald Trump, and the victim of one of Trump’s first policy moves, his decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

For much of industrial America, the TPP was a suspect deal, the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which some argue led to a massive offshoring of U.S. jobs to Mexico. But for the already struggling agricultural sector, the sprawling 12-nation TPP, covering 40 percent of the world’s economy, was a lifeline. It was a chance to erase punishing tariffs that restricted the United States—the onetime “breadbasket of the world”—from selling its meats, grains and dairy products to massive importers of foodstuffs such as Japan and Vietnam.

The decision to pull out of the trade deal has become a double hit on places like Eagle Grove. The promised bump of $10 billion in agricultural output over 15 years, based on estimates by the U.S. International Trade Commission, won’t materialize. But Trump’s decision to withdraw from the pact also cleared the way for rival exporters such as Australia, New Zealand and the European Union to negotiate even lower tariffs with importing nations, creating potentially greater competitive advantages over U.S. exports.

A POLITICO analysis found that the 11 other TPP countries are now involved in a whopping 27 separate trade negotiations with each other, other major trading powers in the region like China and massive blocs like the EU. Those efforts range from exploratory conversations to deals already signed and awaiting ratification. Seven of the most significant deals for U.S. farmers were either launched or concluded in the five months since the United States withdrew from the TPP.
Here's a piece on Trump and NAFTA from the AgLaw Blog back in March, 2017.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Rural Virginia as sanctuary from the city, and from fame

This is a major theme in a piece that ran this weekend in the New York Times about Jeanette Walls, former NYC gossip columnist at New York Magazine made rich and (more) famous about a decade ago from the sale of her memoir. The Glass Castle, which spent seven years on the NYT Bestseller List.  Now that a film based on the book will be released this week (starring Brie Larson as Walls and Woody Harrelson as her father), Walls is getting renewed attention, including this piece by Ruth La Ferla.  Here's a nice summary of the book and movie, which also serve to foreshadow Walls' rural retreat from NYC to Orange, Virginia, population 4,721.  
Hasty retreats are a theme in the film, as they are in Ms. Walls’s 2005 bookof the same title. It is an alternately wrenching and exhilarating yarn of a childhood spent shuttling with her willfully shiftless parents from one parched Southwestern locale to another, and finally, when the family’s resources dry out, settling in Welch, the dilapidated West Virginia mining town that was her father’s childhood home.
La Ferla also writes of Walls' parallel adult decision to retreat from the city after her book became a bestseller:
She had few qualms about abandoning the cocktail-fueled chatter and red-carpet extravaganzas for the verdant seclusion of a 205-acre horse farm in Virginia.
And then she quotes Walls at some length, too, about what the move to rural Virginia means to her:
I know I’ll be O.K. here.  In New York, I’m not so sure. A lot of those gossip columnists, they lose their platform. Walter Winchell spent the last part of his life hanging out on street corners and handing out mimeographed columns. That was just an eye-opener for me. 
I wanted a place where I could go broke and still grow vegetables, bail water out of the creek and shoot deer.  If worse comes to worst, I’ll survive.
As for the city she left behind, Walls explains:
The city is like an old boyfriend with whom I amicably split.  
I read The Glass Castle back when it was released and seemed to have a love-hate relationship with it.  It was powerful indeed, though also uncomfortable  at many turns.  For me, it was a real tear-jerker, some of the characters a bit to close to the bone, too close to some folks from my own childhood.

This feature about Walls reminds me of this piece about Robert Duvall's Virginia retreat, from the Wall Street Journal a few months ago.  The Duvall story focused more on seclusion than survival, but also evoked the rural idyll.  Duvall calls Byrnley Farms, his property, "choice land."
The air is clean, which he appreciates. Mostly what he likes about it, though, is that it’s not the city. “The great Texas playwright Horton Foote once said a lot of people in New York don’t know what goes on beyond the south Jersey Shore, which is true,” Mr. Duvall says. “I mean, New York is a wonderful place. But it’s not the beginning and end of America. Nor is L.A.” 
The Duvall farm, is in The Plains, Virginia (population 217), in Fauquier County (population 65,203), but part of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area.  It is one of the fastest growing and highest income counties in the United States.  Orange, Walls' home, is in the more central part of the state, not far from Charlottesville.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My Rural Travelogue (Part XVII): The Lost Sierra

Sierraville, California, July 16, 2017
A few weeks ago I had occasion to re-visit the Sierra Valley, a massive valley that straddles Sierra and Plumas counties in California.  Head up Hwy 89 from Truckee, and about 25 miles ahead you'll descend into it, an area some have called the lost Sierras because it's relatively little known.  As you pull into Sierraville at the southern edge of the Valley (coming from Truckee), one of the first things you'll see is this sign, Eat Beef.  Sierra and Plumas County Cattle Women.  When I first drove through the valley about four years ago, on a business trip to Plumas County, I was too rushed to stop and take a photo, a mistake I did not repeat this time around.  In fact, running ahead of schedule to drop my son off at a camp in Graeagle--another 21 miles north--I stopped at Sierraville Service and Country Store, a well stocked establishment (with immaculate public toilets...but no Perrier or other fizzy water for sale, at least that I could find).  As is often the case on scenic northern California's highways, lots of motorcyclists were hanging around, taking advantage of the facilities, the store, and the opportunity for a break from the winding roads.  A "pop-up" display of rocks and geodes and such were for sale next to the store's picnic area (you can see just the edge of a table to the right of the sign in the photo), which was beautifully accented with blooming plants and a rickety old wooden wagon.
Sierraville Elementary School, July 16, 2017
Out behind the grocery/service station I spotted the "Report Agricultural Crime" sign offering a reward of up to $2,500 for anonymous information.  It was the first like this I had ever seen, even as I have traversed some of the state's most rural reaches.  Of course it resembles other signs encouraging people to report crime, signs you often see in metropolitan areas, but I note that this one specifies "agricultural" crime and that the hat the silhouette image of the "bad guy" is wearing appears to be a cowboy hat--as opposed to the fedora one sees on the standard sign.
Behind Sierraville Service and Country Store,
July 16, 2017

Sierraville boasts Sierra County's only stoplight--according to wikipedia.  At that stop sign, Highway 89 joins Hwy 49 to head north and east to Loyalton or north and west to Graeagle.  Not far from Sierraville Service and Country Store--and right across from the post office--is the elementary school shown above.  I wonder if there was ever  high school in Sierraville and where high school age students are bussed?  Probably Loyalton's Sierra Pass High School, which I see has a total of 109 students, 9-12 grades.

Before you leave Sierra County along the latter road you hit Sattley, population 49, and the memorable Sattley Cash Store pictured below (does "cash" mean they don't grant credit?).  Some beautiful old homes--not all still inhabited--punctuate the valley's sprawling pastures.  

Sierra County's population is just 3,240, the second least populous in the state.  I'm going to return with another post soon about the rest of my drive through the county.  On the return journey from Graeagle, I descended down Highway 49 (south), from near Sierraville, over the Yuba Pass, into Sierra City, Downieville (the county seat), North San Juan, Nevada City and down to Auburn where 49 meets Interstate 80.
Sattley Cash Store, July 22, 2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Closing up shop in rural America (Part I)

The New York Times ran a story last week, dateline San Luis, Colorado, about a "mom and pop" grocery store--the oldest in Colorado (because San Luis is the oldest town in the state).  The long-time owners of the story are in their 70s and want to retire, but no one has stepped up to buy the store, to take over its operation.  Here's an excerpt from the story, "Who Wants to Run that Mom-and-Pop Market?  Almost No One" that puts it in national perspective.  
Across the country, mom-and-pop markets are among the most endangered of small-town businesses, with competition from corporations and the hurdles of timeworn infrastructure pricing owners out. In Minnesota, 14 percent of nonmetropolitan groceries have closed since 2000. In Kansas, more than 20 percent of rural markets have disappeared in the past decade. Iowa lost half of its groceries between 1995 and 2005.
* * *
The phenomenon is a “crisis” that is turning America’s breadbaskets into food deserts, said David E. Procter, a Kansas State University professor whose work has focused on rural food access, erasing a bedrock of local economies just as rural communities face a host of other problems.
* * * 
[I]n this ranch town, where the closest reliably stocked market is 40 miles away, the threat to R & R Market raises questions about the community’s very survival.
This matter of community survival is a topic of prior blog posts, some of which are here, here and here.  The Center for Rural Affairs wrote about the issue here, with links to earlier related entries and sources on their website.

Julie Turkewitz, the journalist who wrote the story, quotes Bob Rael, director of the county's economic development council, 
If that little store closes, it’s going to be catastrophic. Reality is going to set in. Who let this happen?
That's an interesting quote, not least because I'm not sure what any private individual has the power to do about the closure.  So who might/will be to blame if it does come to pass?

The population of Costilla County, the ninth least populous in Colorado, is 3,524, and it lies on the border with New Mexico. Turkewitz makes this poignant observation about the place:
To visit San Luis is to enter a world that has persisted despite, or perhaps because of, the most extreme of circumstances.
* * *  
In town, residents still speak the Spanish of their ancestors. And on the outskirts, fields of alfalfa sip from an irrigation ditch that those settlers dug by hand. 
This is high desert country, where a few inches of rain fall in a year, winters dip far below zero and the big city nearby is Alamosa, population 9,918. There is no bank, no gas line, and the electricity sometimes goes out for hours.
Turkewitz also explains that taking on a business like a grocery store is a high risk venture, especially with the Trump administration proposing major cuts to programs that support rural America, including SNAP (food stamps) and small-business loans.  Thirty percent of the county's residents receive SNAP.

This is a beautifully written story with lots of historical, economic and political context.  The photographs are exquisite, some quite poignant.  

I'm going to return soon to the topic of business closures--or at least businesses for sale--in rural America.  In that future post I'm going to draw on a recent drive through California's Gold Rush country (Hwy 49--named for the forty-niners--through the northern Sierra) and the many for-sale signs I saw there.