Saturday, September 13, 2008

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part IV): No crime to report this week!

The September 4, 2008, issue of the Newton County Times has just arrived, and I am happy to report that not a single crime is mentioned on the front page. This is in sharp contrast to the past four issues, which I've written about here, here, and here. Indeed, I've scanned all 8 pages and could find nary a mention of crime anywhere -- the sheriff's log isn't even included this week.

That leaves us with a front page dominated by good news, and a real sense of some of the great things about Newton County. It features two large, color photos from the recent county fair and livestock show. Both show young women with their respective winning heifers, one the Grand Champion and the other the Reserve Grand Champion. These young women received prizes of $1K and $500, respectively. The back page of the paper features 14 additional wonderful color photos of fair winners--many of whom are girls and young women--with their livestock. Again, I lament that none of these photos are available online for me to share with you. One story reports that the Reserve Grand Champion steer at the livestock show sold at auction for $3,000. Clearly, farming is alive and well in Newton County, if not the pillar of the economic base that it is in some other parts of the state and country.

The other big story on the front page features the dateline Washington, DC, and is "$4.3 million for water project." It is basically a press release from the offices of Arkansas' U.S. Senators and the two U.S. Representatives for north central and northwest Arkansas touting funds appropriated through the 2008 Farm Bill for the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority (OMRPWA).

There's lots of rich rhetoric in the press release, which quotes all four members of the Arkansas delegation who were involved. I'll highlight just that of Marion Berry, U.S. Congressman who represents a neighboring district that will also benefit from the grant, because of his use of the nostalgic, myth-invoking "backbone" metaphor: "Rural communities are the backbone of America and we must make sure they have the infrastructure to support economic growth and development. . . This grant is one of many steps we are taking to keep our rural communities strong and successful. I applaud local officials for working to ensure the prosperity of their community."

I've become interested in the extent to which federal funding has become less important to rural communities than it formerly was, as states pick up more of the tab for rural development and other local needs. (Mildred Warner and Lisa Cimbaluk presented a terrific paper about this at the Rural Sociological Society Annual Meeting this year). This Newton County Times story reports that OMRPWA is also getting a $200,000 grant from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission for this project.

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