Thursday, December 31, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XLIV): Woman pleads innocent in death of intimate partner

The lead story in the December 17, 2009, issue of the Newton County Times is "Breedlove pleads innocent in shooting." It follows up on the prior week's report that 35-year-old Kerry Breedlove shot her 39-year-old intimate, Shannon Price, in their home. Read the earlier post based on the initial news report here. The story reports that, according to the arrest affidavit, Breedlove told police that she and her minor daughter, Carissa, had been arguing with Price that morning. Breedlove told police that Price was trying to remove Carissa, a teenager, from the home when Kerry Breedlove "got a 22-caliber rifle from the living room and shot Price while he was in the kitchen." Breedlove is being held in the Boone County jail for Newton County, which had its jail closed during the summer of 2009 because it did not meet state standards. Breedlove's next court appearance will be a bond hearing on January 8.

In other "law and order" news, the city of Jasper has a new police officer, Cody Middleton, who previously worked as a dispatcher for the Newton County Sheriff's Office. Middleton will work afternoons five days a week. He joins Jasper Police Chief Pete DeChant, apparently the only other officer on the force. The story notes that Middleton is filling a new position with the department and that four others--from around the state--applied for the position. Middleton has completed a 120-hour course to qualify for the post.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A novel plan to preserve rural land

Listen to NPR's story about Joan Graham and her plan for her Michigan land here. Graham, aged 80, is working with the Six Rivers Regional Land Conservancy to have her land become an environmentally friendly cemetery after her death--with Graham being the first to be interred there. What would make it environmentally friendly are "no embalming and no fertilized lawn. Bodies would be interred in biodegradable caskets or shrouds, with rocks and trees as grave markers."

Here are some great quotes from Graham:

"I just like the earth. I like the smell of it, and I like green, and I like trees."

Speaking of the oaks on her land, beneath which she has requested burial, Graham states:

"They have deep taproots. Wouldn't it be nice if that oak tree would ever reach my remains, and the tree would take nourishment from that? And it's kind of like I never died, really. I just morphed into a tree or something."

The dateline for the story is Metamora, Michigan, township population 4,184, village population 507, and the story describes the place as "north of Detroit." A quick glance at a map makes it look as if Metamora is probably exurban, which is consistent with Graham's stated aversion to housing developments and shopping centers.

Small towns sacrificed in Red River flood control plan

Read Monica Davey's story, "Red River Flooding Solution Is a Problem to Some" in today's New York Times. Here's an excerpt about a proposal that would help manage floods like the disastrous 2009 ones.
The project would create a large-scale diversion channel, essentially sending some part of the water off on a man-made path, around the neighbor cities of Fargo and Moorhead, Minn. The sensitive question, though, is where the water should go. Residents of the small, sugar beet farm towns near Fargo fear that any diversion would, in sparing the larger cities, send extra floodwaters straight for them.
In last year's flooding, the hearts of Fargo, population 96,293, and Moorhead, population 35,084, were mostly spared by the bolstering of nearby levees, while "farms and homes were swamped through the region."

One of the story's themes is whether rural voices are being adequately heard as the new proposal is being considered. Ann Manley,the mayor of Perley, Minnesota, population 121, is among those quoted regarding the tension between rural and urban interests:
“Fargo and Moorhead are the big guns. ... We don’t have the people. We don’t have the money. But this is going to affect all the little towns.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Demise of Lake Champlain Bridge

Listen here to the NPR story about yesterday's demolition of the bridge. An earlier post about the bridge's closure and its impact on the local economy is here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Monopoly in Montana?

Here's the rare story that undeniably depicts an intersection between law and rural livelihoods. (Like yesterday's post, it also shows how critical a transportation link can be to a rural community's survival). Kirk Johnson reports in today's New York Times under the headline, "Tough Times Test the Bond between a Town and its Railroad." The dateline is Denton, Montana, population 301, and the story is about the struggle for survival of the tiny Central Montana Railroad. Central's market niche is hauling grain from Denton and environs to the Burlington Northern line, about 40 miles away. Here's an excerpt summarizing recent events:

Last month, Burlington Northern shut off payments to the Central that had been locked in for years by contract ... prompting a lawsuit by the State of Montana on Central’s behalf. Burlington officials said the payments had inflated shipping costs for local farmers.
Burlington is also offering discounts to farmers who truck their wheat directly to its grain elevator. Burlington says it is simply helping these farmers lower shipping costs so that they can better compete in a difficult global market.

Montana's Attorney General has sued Burlington Northern, which controls about 95% of everything that moves by rail in the state. He says he is concerned about the state being even more captive to Burlington Northern than it already is.

At stake for Denton is population loss, a phenomenon driven as much by consolidation of farms as it may ultimately be by the outcome of this railroad struggle.

Read the rest of the story here, which also has an interesting technology angle: competing use of text messaging to farmers.

Denton is in Fergus County, population 11,893,

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Two towns suffer from bridge closure

This recent story reports on the consequences of the October closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge between Crown Point, New York, population 2,119, and Chimney Point, Vermont, which is not a census designated place but is part of Addison County. Safety concerns led to the closure of the bridge, which will be demolished in a few days. The story focuses on the economic impact of the closure, as well as the inconvenience caused for area residents.
Generally, the closing has hit Vermont businesses and the New York residents who work at and patronize them hard. The bridge, one of only two connecting the states across Lake Champlain, was used by about 3,400 drivers a day who now must travel around the northern end of the lake to the other span, adding two hours and 100 miles to the round trip. Or they are forced to take one of two ferries that run in the winter.
A Vermont resident who owns a restaurant near the bridge, and who has borrowed from her retirement savings to keep it open in the wake of the closure, said of the Vermonters, "“We lost our life’s blood.” Of the New York residents, she said, "They lost their life’s line.”

Friday, December 25, 2009

Paying homage to Eleanor, West Virginia

Dan Barry writes of Eleanor, West Virginia, on the front page of today's New York Times. The town of Eleanor, which is named after Eleanor Roosevelt, was founded in the 1930s as part of the federal government's program to create jobs during the Great Depression.

Much of Barry's story is based on interviews with Marlane Crockett Carr, who moved to Eleanor when she was four after her father helped to build the town, which lies on the Kanawha River, about 30 miles west of Charleston. Here is an excerpt that features Carr's thoughts, while also saying something about Eleanor today and putting the town's establishment in historical perspective.
Ms. Carr watched Eleanor grow, from a place planted in mud nearly 75 years ago — well before the Levittowns of post-World War II America — to a town that proclaims itself the cleanest in West Virginia; a town with a budget, a mayor, a library, a Dairy Queen. Its development has been bitter, sweet, messy, quiet, ugly and beautiful, not unlike the evolution of this country.

Barry explains that early housing projects like the one in Eleanor and others were ridiculed as pet projects of Mrs. Roosevelt, but "the first lady had seen first-hand the scrawny children, eating scraps hardly worth a dog’s time. She held her ground." Just 150 families of the 1000 who applied were accepted to live on the homestead, initially known as Red House Farms. A rigorous vetting process identified the "physically and morally strong" who would have the privilege of living in the new homes, each on a one-acre lot with a garden and chicken coop. The families were expected "to work, grow vegetables, learn home economics and engage in cultural pursuits, like joining the band. Their children were to keep clean, stay in school and take cod liver oil to ward against rickets." The families paid a "modest" rent that applied toward the purchase of their home.

The full story is well worth a read. One part that I found especially poignant was Barry's mention--at least twice--that the new homes had an "exotic" feature--indoor plumbing. He tells of how Carr, as a child, christened the new home--by repeatedly flushing the toilet.

Eleanor's current population is 1,345. It is in Putnam County, population 51,589, which is part of the Charleston Metropolitan area.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XLIII): Another domestic homicide

The lead story in the December 10, 2009, issue of the Newton County Times is about the shooting death of a 39-year-old man, Shannon Price. What really makes the story stand out, however, is that the man was killed in a domestic dispute with his 35-year-old live in girlfriend, Kerri Breedlove. The story provides few details regarding what might have happened, reporting:
[County Sheriff] Slape said Price was found shot to death about 11:30 am just outside the residence he shared with [Breedlove]. Slape said Breedlove is a suspect in the shooting and was taken into custody without incident at the residence.
The Sheriff's Office had received a call from a "frantic caller saying that a woman had shot her boyfriend at their Piercetown residence." The man, who was shot once in the chest with a .22 magnum rifle, was non-responsive to CPR when the first responders arrived. Authorities do not suspect that drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident. Breedlove is being held on a first degree murder charge. The accompanying photo shows a state trooper's car in front of a trailer home; a second photo shows the sheriff at the scene.

In a place where so few murders occur, it is interesting that two recent ones have involved women killing their intimate partners in domestic disputes. Read about the other here and here. I'll reserve further comment on this one until more details are reported.

In other crime news, a 32-year-old Deer man, Carl Wayne Richardson, was arraigned in neighboring Boone County on 35 charges stemming from a "multiple-day crime spree in Boone, Newton and Carroll counties in late November." I wrote here about the series of apparently related thefts a few weeks ago. Turns out Richardson was convicted of manslaughter in Newton County in 2003, but his sentence was suspended. Following his arrest for this recent crime spree, he was sentenced to prison for four years of that previously suspended sentence. He pleaded not guilty to the most recent charges.

In other news, the Quorum Court met and will be discussing the budget at its next meeting. Among items noted at the Dec. 7 meeting was that county jail expenditures are 11% over budget, due mostly to housing prisoners in other counties since the jail's closure several months ago. Read more here. A meeting of the sheriff, architect, and Rural Development officials is set to review plans for construction of the new jail.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Coming soon: more broadband for rural America

photo: Arik Hesseldahl for BusinessWeek

Vice President Joe Biden was just in Dawsonville, GA, a small rural town (pop. 619), to announce eighteen projects that will receive $183 million in federal funding (collectively) to bring high speed Internet service to rural places. Biden spoke at Impulse Manufacturing, a metalworks plant in north Georgia whose business has been stunted by the lack of a broadband network in that part of the state.

The government recently set aside $7.4 billion dollars in stimulus funding for rural broadband service, as Internet service providers overlook many poor neighborhoods, rural areas, and Native American communities. Federal programs plan to distribute about $2 billion over the next couple of months, while the balance of the $7.4 billion has been spent on mapping projects or will be distributed in a final round of grants.

According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, only 46% of rural American households have access to high-speed Internet connections. That's up from 38% in 2008, but it pales in comparison with 67% for non-rural dwellers. Lack of fast Web access creates a division that makes it harder for businesses to do business, impedes employment searches, disadvantages students, and leaves a large percentage of the country less connected to helpful information on the Web (including health sites and news updates). "Broadband is a distance killer, which can especially help rural Americans," says Pew's John Horrigan. "Broadband is not just an information source for news and civic matters, but it's also a pathway to participation."

A recent story in the Washington Post describes how $121M of $183M-the first allocation of stimulus funding-targets "middle mile" projects. These are projects that connect the larger community to the national Internet grid (via a public library, for example). Connecting individual homes and businesses ("last mile" projects) without first connecting the middle mile would not efficiently solve the problem. According to one analyst, a failure to address the middle mile is “the biggest choke point preventing broadband deployment to rural areas." It is easier to connect the community to the national grid, then to work down from there, connecting each individual home in turn. [Note: "last mile" projects, however, do receive federal funding].

Demand for the rural broadband money has been high - with applications coming in from local governments, rural cooperatives, and non-profits all over the country. Examples of some of the funded projects funded are:
-New Mexico State Library ("how-to" web training for Spanish, Navajo, and Pueblo-speaking groups in 15 communities).
-North Georgia Network Cooperative (fiber-optic ring to connect communities in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, serves 334,000).
-Biddleford Internet Corp., (U. of Maine/ISPs partnership) (3 fiber-optic rings across rural Maine, serves 100 communities with 110,000 households; connects 10 U. of Maine campuses).

-Consolidated Electric Cooperative (north central Ohio)(166-mile fiber network to connect 16 electrical substations to support a smart grid project).
-Alaska Native Corporation (SW Alaska) (4G wireless network)

-Fiber-to-the-home project in a remote corner of New Hampshire

-Computer centers for 84 libraries in Arizona.

For a good encapsulation of the plight of a broadband-less rural business, and the effects of that lack of access on rural community residents in general, see this short video. Arik Hesseldahl traveled to rural Centerville, Tennessee (pop. 3,793) to investigate a story for BusinessWeek. [The story is a little over a year old, but the message, I think, still holds true]. Hesseldahl interviews Sandra Thornton, a manager of the local sewing plant, who describes her frustrations with securing new clients and bidding on contracts. "If I could just get DSL, I could get so much more done," she says. "It's really frustrating." The problem: a corporate-grade fiber-optic connection costs $1,000 a month, and a DSL/cable modem hookup isn't available in her rural town (60 miles southwest of Nashville).

To facilitate a fix for the lack of access problem, groups such as Washington, D.C.-based Connected Nation, aim to spread the "broadband gospel" in small towns while convincing companies like Comcast and AT&T of the benefits of rural investment. State-specific branches, like Connected Tennessee, work to inform states about how to maximize their federal stimulus funding, and increase their broadband availability and adoption rates, including mapping of remote and rural areas. Data they've collected (see below) shows that Centerville, in Hickman county, is a severely underserved rural place needing broadband access (significantly lower than the statewide average).

Graphic and data from Connected Nation website:

Even in light of broadband's outstanding potential for rural communities, there are critics who think that the benefits aren't all they're cracked up to be. Analysts often fail to factor into the "economic benefit" number, the amount of time that users spend on online entertainment rather than on economically productive activities like shopping or banking. Others voice disappointment with the time it took the federal government to issue the stimulus money. They lament that jobs won't come soon enough - laying fiber-optic lines will have to wait until after the winter freeze.

Despite these complaints, it's hard to argue that access to broadband isn't essential. Whether the lines go in now or in the spring, this service is vital not only in helping rural communities with distance learning, telemedicine, and real-time pricing for farmers, but in fostering successful manufacturing industries and a stable middle class. Back in Dawsonville, Vice President Biden had it right when he said, "New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas . . . Businesses will be able to improve their customer service and better compete around the world."

Whether it's middle mile or last mile projects, it is about time that these rural projects get funded and that rural communities get reliable, high-speed access to all the benefits that the Internet offers. Take it from Dwight Sullivan, a self-described "reformed rowdy redneck," also interviewed by Hesseldahl. Sullivan operates a 250-acre cattle ranch, works in real estate, runs a cardboard-box distribution business on the side and moonlights on the local school board and Chamber of Commerce. He's stuck with dial-up access at home, where he frequently gets calls from potential home buyers who want to see pictures of properties. It takes him less time to drive 12 miles to his office and send the images than to do it from home.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hard times in the Catskills

Jennifer Mascia reports in today's New York Times from Monticello, New York, population 6,512. The headline, "Few Laughs Left in a Catskill Town Struggling to Revive," pretty much sums up the story, which put in historical perspective the struggles of the so-called borscht belt. Here's the history part:
In the 19th century, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties developed a robust farming economy, and farmers in search of extra income opened small boarding houses. Businessmen who passed through the area took notice of this nascent hospitality industry and purchased and expanded the rooming houses, giving birth to behemoths like Grossinger’s in Liberty and the Concord in Kiamesha Lake.
But the Catskill resorts lost business in the mid 20th century as air travel became less expensive, enabling New York City residents could travel elsewhere. The following experts convey the long-term consequences of that decline and the region's failure to establish a new economic base.

“Those who want a good job have nothing to choose from,” said Mr. Edwards, a former copier technician at Xerox, whose ancestors settled the area after the Revolutionary War. The best chances for employment, he added, lie in the sprawling prison system, government agencies, hospitals and schools, “and there’s nothing in between.”

That brain drain takes a toll on teachers-in-waiting, too, like Laura Privitera. A server at a T.G.I. Friday’s in Middletown, Ms. Privitera, 30, is biding her time until a teaching position materializes.

While Ms. Privitera is willing to re-locate and recently applied for a public school job in nearby Liberty, she was one of more than 600 applicants.

Interestingly, according to the Assemblywoman for the district that includes Sullivan and Orange counties, dairy farming holds the greatest promise for the area.

A tale of community from a remote Alaskan village

The story from yesterday's All Things considered on NPR featured the headline "Isolated Alaskan Village Hosts Christmas Pageant." The dateline is Aniak, Alaska, population 572. Aniak is part of the Bethel-Kuskokwim Delta, and about 100 of its residents are students in the K-12 school that was presenting the pageant, which all of the remaining village residents were expected to attend.

Here's an enthusiastic quote from the school's principal: "Once the lights come on and the set is there and the people start showing up, I'm telling you, you could light Alaska with the energy that gets produced backstage."

Listen to the full report by Annie Feidt of Alaska Public Radio here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Conference: Gender, Rurality, Transformation

Here's a call for papers for what sounds like an amazing event, May 13-14, 2010 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. The subtitle for the event is "A conference on gender relations and the changing dynamics of Canadian rural life."

Rural life in Canada has always been experienced at the intersections of individual and collective ingenuity and determination, of the vagaries of climate and constraints of the physical environment, and of economic and political processes often put into action far away. Contrary to a common view that rural places and the people who live there are in some sense timeless and static, they have always been – have had to be – dynamic and adaptable. And despite claims that rural places contain fewer people and are therefore far less important than urban centres, what goes on in rural regions has profound consequences for urban and rural populations in terms of their food, water, and air quality; as well as for broader national concerns around human and animal rights, land and resource use, and the environment. Ongoing societal and environmental changes continue to have profound implications for gender relations in rural areas, and gender relations themselves contribute to how change is implemented and experienced here and elsewhere. How gender relations shift and with what consequences will vary in different rural regions depending on the cultural, economic, political social and environmental factors at play and the relationship of those regions to urban centres nearby and far away.

Rural areas are as enmeshed in the global economy as anywhere else. Sometimes through its powerful presence and sometimes because it has turned away from a particular place, the effects of the global economy are experienced in diverse ways in rural places. Family farms experience serious debt crisis and large-scale farming increases. Some natural resources decline or become inaccessible, while others take on new value. Old rural manufacturing regions are eclipsed by those closer to transportation routes and previously important economic regions losing ground in the global economy reposition themselves by marketing tourism and leisure pursuits within their communities. Livelihood maintenance increasingly requires great personal mobility. Economic and political change affects a broad range of policies and rural economic development. All of these processes of change have gendered implications. They also take place in a broader national and international context where dominant discourses are produced and promulgated largely with urban places in mind, which then bump up against and in the process redefine historically produced ideas and practices of rurality.

Amidst all of this change rural social relations are being reshaped. Migrants bring their labour, and sometimes their families, to rural communities. Young people find expanded opportunities elsewhere and leave. Urbanites and retirees seek out new and at times cheaper places to raise families and experience a different lifestyle. All of these and many other transformations shift local demographics in terms of class, age, ethnicity, religion, education, and race. In a context where the sexual division of labour continues to be critical to survival, gender relations become a flashpoint for struggles over how change is negotiated, resisted, accommodated and embraced.

Developments in scholarship pertaining to gender and to rural places allow scholars to bring these issues into focus in new ways. Older theoretical constructs, such as power and empowerment, commodity production, social reproduction, division of labour, patriarchy, and labour market, are complemented by new ones like difference, diversity, representation, mobility, and identity. This conference aims to address this broad range of rural gender issues through multiple disciplinary and theoretical lenses.

We welcome abstracts for conference papers, workshops or posters that speak to how gender relations are being transformed and are transforming rural communities. Abstracts must be no more than 150 words and should be sent to by February 1 2010.

For more about work on the intersection of rurality and gender at the University of Guelph, click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another charming tale of rural food

This charming story in today's New York Times, dateline Hartford, Alabama, population 2,369, is currently number seven on most emailed list. The headline is "Festiveness, Stacked up Southern Style." It reports on the tradition of making many-layered cakes in small Southeast Alabama towns, calling the cakes "currency, comfort and status." An excerpt featuring colorful quotes from local residents follows:

“Three or four weren’t nothing to brag about,” said Franklin Peacock, who has been eating layer cake here since the 1930s. “Five or six is about where you’d want to start talking about your cake.”

Martha Meadows, 77, learned to bake 15-layer cakes from her mother, who cooked each layer one at a time in a cast-iron hoe-cake pan. The pan now lives in a kitchen cupboard in the small house in a cotton field between this town and Slocomb, Ala., where Mrs. Meadows has lived for 34 years. Why 15 layers?

“That’s just the way it comes out,” she said. “One time I got 17. Of course, I weren’t trying.”

I thought I was pretty southern, but I have no idea what a "cast-iron hoe-cake pan" is, though I am quite familiar with cast-iron skillets.

In any event, this part from the end of the story represented something that is familar to me--the sense of community associated with these women's acts of baking and sharing. A 77-year-old is quoted as saying she bakes about eight cakes a month for people "who are too sick to make their own or for the old folks’ home or, really, anyone in need." The woman said that "it's partly what I call my ministry."

But it’s also the best way she knows to make herself feel better.

“If you get down and out,” she said, “just get in the kitchen and bake a cake.”

The "down and out" part also reminded me of the hard times now hitting hard this region of Alabama. Read about them here, in the Daily Yonder.

P.S. By late afternoon on the day this story appeared, it was up to no. 2 on the most emailed list. Interestingly, it was running second to another food story. Interest in both may be a reflection of this festive season.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gitmo prisoners to go to rural Illinois

Read this report in the New York Times and this earlier post on the topic, focusing on Thomson, Illinois, and the prison facility there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

More on gangs in Indian country

Erik Eckholm reports in today's New York Times on the rise in gang violence on Indian reservations. Even as the story notes that many crimes in Indian country go undocumented, it reports that "gang-related thefts, assaults — including sexual assaults — and rising property crime over the last three years, along with four murders," on the Oglala Sioux Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Here are quotes that indicates a differentiation between these (rural) gangs on reservations and gangs in urban areas. These excerpts also help situate this phenomenon in socio-economic context.

Compared with their urban models, they are more likely to fight rivals, usually over some minor slight, with fists or clubs than with semiautomatic pistols.

* * *

The Justice Department distinguishes the home-grown gangs on reservations from the organized drug gangs of urban areas, calling them part of an overall juvenile crime problem in Indian country that is abetted by eroding law enforcement, a paucity of juvenile programs and a suicide rate for Indian youth that is more than three times the national average.

If they lack the reach of the larger gangs after which they style themselves, the Indian gangs have emerged as one more destructive force in some of the country’s poorest and most neglected places.

Read an earlier post about gangs in Indian country here; the possible links between the gangs about which Eckholm writes and these "Mexican" gangs are not self-evident.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

But where, exactly, is Anderson Springs?

This story in the New York Times, "Geothermal Project in California is Shut Down," caught my eye in yesterday's paper. Here's the lede:
The company in charge of a California project to extract vast amounts of renewable energy from deep, hot bedrock has removed its drill rig and informed federal officials that the government project will be abandoned.

The project by the company, AltaRock Energy, was the Obama administration’s first major test of geothermal energy as a significant alternative to fossil fuels and the project was being financed with federal Department of Energy money at a site about 100 miles north of San Francisco called the Geysers.
The story caught my eye again later in the day when I saw it on the most emailed list at Both times I wondered if there was a rural story here, but it was hard to know for sure because there was no dateline, and the only place name mentioned in relation to the drilling was Anderson Springs. When I searched American FactFinder for Anderson Springs, no luck. Next, I searched, but again to no avail. There wasn't a listing for Anderson Springs, nor was it listed as a place within Napa, Lake, Sonoma or Mendocino counties--the counties that seemed like good candidates to be "100 miles north of San Francisco." Finally, I went to AltaRock Energy's site and found this map. Based on it, Anderson Springs (which is not actually designated as a place on the map) appears to be in Lake County, but very near the county boundaries with Sonoma and Napa counties. Indeed, it's not far at all--at least as the crow flies--from the aptly named Sonoma County town of Geyserville.

Other than teaching me the locale of Anderson Springs, this story taught me that geothermal energy capture, like drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale and elsewhere, is an activity that has more negative consequences for rural residents than for urban ones. Read an earlier story here about the fear of quakes that led to the project's shut down, as well as the cessation of a similar project in Switzerland. The AltaRock map also shows seismic activity within the Geysers' geothermal field. The NYT story closes with this related quote from a resident near the Anderson Springs site: “How I feel is beyond anything that words can express. ... I’m just so relieved, because with this going on, I’m afraid one of these days it’s going to knock my house off the hill.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Eating local, eating rural

I have already written some here about my visit to northwest Arkansas last month--to both my hometown, Jasper, in Newton County, and my college town, Fayetteville, in Washington County. I drove between the two, which took me through Madison County. These places run the gamut from rural-to-urban--at least as manifest in Arkansas. Washington County is in one of the state's few metropolitan statistical areas, while Newton County is at the rural end of the USDA's rural-urban continuum. Madison County falls in between, both physically and on the USDA continuum.

I was delighted to see these three counties brought together in a new-ish, upmarket-ish Fayetteville restaurant, The Greenhouse Grille, where I dined the last night of my trip. The restaurant's slogan is "creating conscious cuisine," and its menu says it "strives to support local farms, to use organic and natural products, and operate as many sustainable practices as possible." Cool, I thought. I was even more impressed when I looked at list of "local providers" because it included one each from Madison and Newton counties. The Madison County provisioner, which supplies organic shiitake mushrooms, is Sweden Creek Farm. The farm is in Kingston, an unincorporated community that is not even a census designated place but that does have a small K-12 school (photo top).

I was even more surprised to see on the list Low Gap, Arkansas, a teeny, tiny community in Newton County. A provisioner there called Foot Hold Farms provides the restaurant with seasonal organic produce. Low Gap is a place associated with my childhood because school classmates of mine lived there, and I sometimes attended vacation Bible school at its old community building, a structure that probably was once a local school. Low Gap residents are lucky that they still have a little general store, as most communities that size no longer do. But I had just driven through Low Gap (and taken these photos) the day before I dined at the restaurant, and I can attest that these two structures and a cemetery still comprise the entire "town." I'd seen no signs for Foot Hold Farms, but it was no doubt down one of several dirt roads that converge at Low Gap. (Incidentally, Low Gap is aptly named as it lies in a valley between Mount Sherman and Shiloh Mountain).

How marvelous that both of these very small communities are seeing some economic benefit from the locavore movement. (See an earlier post here, also out of Newton County). It's more evidence that even the most rural places are not entirely static--and that rural economies are linked in myriad ways with urban ones.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Natural gas drilling still creating headaches--and riches--for rural residents

Two recent stories in the New York Times have reported on the local consequences of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania and New York. Read these stories here and here about drilling in the Marcellus shale formation.

The more recent story, by Jad Mouawad and Clifford Kruass,"Dark Side of a Natural Gas Boom," features the dateline Dimock, Pennsylvania, population 1,398. Its focus is on pollution caused by the drilling, in particular, groundwater contamination. In Dimock, 13 wells have been contaminated, and one blew up. But the story also touches on pollution of other sorts, like noise pollution. Here's an excerpt:
The hills around Dimock have been bulldozed to clear the ground for dozens of drilling pads the size of football fields. Eighteen-wheelers thunder down narrow country roads, kicking up dust and fumes. Recently, a helicopter buzzed overhead while dangling heavy cables used for seismic tests.
The dateline for the earlier story, "At Odds Over Land, Money and Gas," by Mireya Navarro, is Chenango, New York, population 11,454. This story appeared in the Environment section of the paper, but it has a significant human interest angle. Navarro observes the complex, mixed reactions in the "rural communities above the shale," concerns similar to those across the state line in Pennsylvania.

Some residents welcome the drilling as a modern-day gold rush and salvation from the economic doldrums that they say have chased jobs and young people away from their area. Others express concerns about the environment and quality-of-life issues like noise and heavy-truck traffic.

In some cases, the issue has pitted neighbor against neighbor or spouse against spouse.

Read more here, and don't miss this earlier post about drilling in the Marcellus shale.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Growing old in rural America

Don't miss Kirk Johnson's story, "For Elderly in Rural America, Hard Times Get Harder," in the New York Times. The dateline is Lingle, Wyoming, population 510, and some of the other elderly folks he interviewed live in places like Oshkosh, Nebraska, population 887, and Torrington, Wyoming, population 5,776.

Johnson notes the debate among those who study rural America regarding whether rural elderly can stay put during these tough economic times, when many programs serving them are being cut. He quotes Teresa S. Radebaugh, director of the Regional Institute on Aging at Wichita State University, in support of the position that the "fortitude of the rural elderly simply runs too deep" for them to leave their homes. Radebaugh says, “The people will remain, because they’re rooted and anchored to the land. They'll stay no matter what.”

Here's an excerpt from the story that I found particularly interesting, even heartening:

It is in fact quite easy to find older people who take comfort in the surroundings they have known since they were young, however difficult things have become. Memory is everywhere, and hardship has been the norm in life, many say, so what’s new?

But an equally important reality, gerontologists and psychologists say, is that people who have managed to reach great age in a tough environment have, in turn, been toughened by the experience.

Attachment to place and hardship are among a range of characteristics associated with rural places that are reflected in the story, which is very poignant and well worth a read. The photos accompanying it are very powerful, too; see them here.

NPR ran a story today that picked up some similar themes, e.g., aging and population loss, but also happier ones like entrepreneurship and hope. It is here.

NB: As of noon on the day Kirk Johnson's story appeared in the print edition, it is the fifth most emailed story at

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Federal government to pay $3.4 billion to settle Indian trust claims

Read this report by Charlie Savage in the New York Times. This settles a class-action lawsuit filed in 1996 and in which 300,000 American Indians have a stake. Savage explains the suit's basis--essentially that the federal government mismanaged trust accounts of which Indians were beneficiaries:

The dispute arises from a system dating to 1887 under which the government set up trusts to manage tens of millions of acres of land owned by individual American Indians and by tribes. The acreage is scattered across the country with the heaviest concentration in Western states.

The Interior Department manages leases on the land for activities like mining, livestock grazing, timber harvesting and drilling for oil and gas. It then distributes the revenue raised by those leases to the American Indians.

One aspect of the problem is that ownership of the Indian lands has become "fractionalized" with each successive generation. Savage gives the example of a 40-acre parcel of land worth $20,000 in which 439 persons have an interest. Fees to manage so many trusts are as much as $40,000, which eats into the prophets the shareholders might otherwise enjoy. The settlement will seek to alleviate this problem, in part by establishing a $2 billion fund to buy out those who are willing to sell their interests.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XLII): Property crime on the rise

The top story in the December 3, 2009 issue of the Newton County Times is "Thefts reported on increase in area." The lede is:
Local authorities investigating a number of vehicle thefts in Harrison, Carroll County and Newton County, although it wasn't immediately clear they are all related.
The story, however, focuses on a single incident of vehicle theft and sighting of the stolen vehicle in two neighboring counties, Boone (population 36,482) and Carroll (population 27,299). It then notes two other car thefts and a motorcycle theft in neighboring Boone County.

Other crime news includes these stories on the paper's back page:

"Middleton faces federal drug charges." This story is a follow up on earlier reports of Middleton's arrest for drug charges; see blog post here. This report indicates that Middleton has been charged with four felony counts of distributing methamphetamine "after a multi-agency arrest that included a chase with a helicopter" in early November. The story does not make clear why the charges are federal rather than state.

"Hunting violations lead to felony arrests." This story reports that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was investigating "road hunting" in the Shiloh community when he noticed the odor of marijuana on two people he was interviewing. The county sheriff subsequently arrested the men, a father and son aged 47 and 21, for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms and numerous game and fish violations.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Distance as an obstacle to health care delivery in Indian Country

A story in the New York Times earlier this week proclaimed good news for American Indian health care in the form of stimulus dollars and other federal funds flowing to the Indian Health Service. Describing a meeting in Washington last month between Obama and the leaders of 564 tribes, Pam Belluck writes that health care was at the top of leaders' wish lists. Obama is quoted as acknowledging disparities in health care delivery for American Indians, and specifically the high rates at which this population die of a range of illnesses, e.g., diabetes, alcoholism, pneumonia, influenza, and even tuberculosis. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota calls for an appropriate federal response to the “full-scale health care rationing going on on Indian reservations.”

While a great deal of the "rationing" described is due to lack of funding and staff shortages, the story also makes frequent mention of distance as an impediment to delivery of health care for Indians. Interestingly, it also provides two specific illustrations of challenges to Indian health care delivery in urban contexts. Here are some excerpts regarding rural locales and attendant spatial challenges:
Too few doctors. Too little equipment. Hospitals and clinics miles of hardscrabble road away.
* * *
Money shortages, bureaucracy and distance can delay treatment of even serious conditions for months, even years.
* * *
Treating large swaths of the Hopi and Navajo reservations — the Navajo alone is the size of West Virginia — is inherently difficult.
* * *
Ruby Biakeddy’s six-sided hogan, a traditional Navajo home, without running water or a phone, is an hour’s drive on a dirt road from drinking water, and even farther from diabetes and blood pressure medication.
* * *
Patients contribute to the frustrations. Nearly a third do not show up for scheduled surgery at Tuba City, often citing distance or cost.
Of course, better funding can alleviate some of these spatial challenges by enabling the provision of care in more places and with longer opening hours. Funding won't, however, solve all of the problems if, as Belluck observes, "providers and insurers, daunted by the alarming health problems, continue avoiding Indian Country."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New study finds greater than expected rural prosperity, mostly in the Plains and Midwest ran this story yesterday under the headline, "Rural America Surprisingly Prosperous, Study Finds." The study, by a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign economist, is based on 2000 data. It (or at least the yahoo news report of it) proclaims good news for rural America based on a finding that one in five rural counties is more prosperous than the nation as a whole. But I have a hard time getting excited about that 20% figure. That sounds more like bad news than good news for rural America. Furthermore, the degree of "prosperity"--or lack thereof--varies dramatically by region. The rate of prosperous rural counties was much higher in the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and "parts of six states surrounding them" were mentioned) than in the South and Southwest. In those latter regions, just one in 20 rural counties--a mere 5%--are more prosperous than the national average.

The University of Illinois study assessed "unemployment rates, poverty rates, high school drop-out rates, and housing conditions" as measures of "prospering communities." These metrics differ from the growth-oriented measures often used to assess prosperity. The study found that "[p]rosperous rural counties have more off-farm jobs, more educated populations, and less income inequality than other rural counties." According to the Yahoo report, some overlap does exist between prosperity and economic growth. Prosperous counties tend to have slow population growth, as opposed to the higher population growth rates associated with less affluent rural counties.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

10-year-old girl "tased" in rural Arkansas

Law enforcement’s improper use of a taser is a concern that occasionally gains media-wide attention. For example, when a police officer used a taser on a 72-year-old great-grandmother during a traffic stop in May, both CNN and Fox News covered the story.

Recently, in rural Arkansas, a police officer tasered a 10-year-old girl. This story also attracted a considerable amount of media attention, including that of Fox News. The officer was dispatched to the rural home after the mother of the child reported a domestic disturbance. The mother reported that the girl screamed, kicked, and resisted when she attempted to get the child into the shower before bed. When the police officer arrived, the child kicked the officer in the groin. At the urging of the child’s mother, the officer then delivered a brief taser to subdue the child. The police report described the taser usage as a “very, very brief stun.” As of last report, the girl was not injured and is being held at the Western Arkansas Youth Center in Cecil, Arkansas.

The opinions of the town’s citizens concerning the incident differ dramatically. Police Chief, Jim Noggle explained the department’s actions and stated, "We didn't use the Taser to punish the child — just to bring the child under control so she wouldn't hurt herself or somebody else." Additionally, he supported the decision of the officer in question. However, the father of the child is outraged the incident occurred. He told the media, "My daughter does not deserve to be tased and be treated like an animal.” Further, the town’s mayor is now calling for either the Arkansas State Police or the FBI to investigate the incident.

Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser, Incorporated defended the use of taser guns and said, “In some cases, a Taser presents the safer response to resistance compared with the alternatives such as fists, kicks, baton strikes, bean bag guns, chemical agents, or canine response”

To me, this story poses a lot of interesting questions. First of all, it seems strange that an unruly child would result in a mother calling law enforcement to her home. Additionally, why did the officer even attempt to subdue a child in the home after he learned of the nature of the “domestic” disturbance? Also, how did the incident escalate to the mother requesting the officer to taser her child; and, why did the officer comply? It seems there is something missing from this story concerning the relationship between the officer and the family. It seems at least possible that an officer would respond in such a manner as a result of his knowledge of the family. At the very least, lack of anonymity could have contributed to this shocking incident.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rural roads--safer than we thought?

According to conventional wisdom, rural roads are more dangerous than urban and suburban thoroughfares. The very term might bring to mind two undivided lanes of blacktop, miles removed from emergency services and dotted with white crosses and impromptu memorials.

Over at NPR, an interesting piece examines how different definitions of "rural" may have contributed to a misunderstanding of how dangerous rural roads actually are. Specifically, under the broad catch-all definition of rural utilized by the Census Bureau (that has also been adopted by the National Highway Transportation Administration for determining accident rates), over 60% of fatal accidents occur in rural areas.

But as the NPR piece notes, "
the portion of fatalities on rural roads drops to just 27%, according to Cromartie's [a USDA analyst] analysis, if only small towns (of less than 2,500) and the low-density countryside are included in the calculation. Throw together the cities, suburbs and exurbs (outer suburbs) and the urban share of fatalities rises to 70%."

According to the NPR piece, this rethinking of the urban/rural distinction with respect to highway safety seems to be taking hold. A new NHTA study revealed that, "a whopping 86% of traffic deaths occur in cities and in the first 10 miles of rural highway adjacent to cities. Just five miles outside of town the number is 73%."

The NPR piece reminded me of another set of stories the Sacramento Bee recently put out in the wake of a terrible accident just north of Folsom.

Drive safely everyone.

End of the line . . . literally

"[T]he old hotel, without a single light, tells you that the best days around here are gone." That's the story of Janesville, Wisconsin (pop. ~60,000), a small rural town that, up until last year, depended heavily on the General Motors plant there for jobs and a livelihood.

The plant closed down one year ago and now many of the town's residents are at a loss for what to do. How will they continue to live without a steady source of income?

Photo: Danny Wilcox Frazier, for Mother Jones

I ran across this article while randomly browsing a magazine in the bookstore. I thought I'd blog about it just because it seems to be such a prevalent occurrence. We've seen so many of these types of stories - manufacturing industry leaves small town, collapsing the local economy and leaving residents in shambles.

The Janesville Assembly Plant was everything in that town--'a birthright, a job for life'--for four generations. People there never wanted to believe that the plant would close. But according to one resident, "[i]t was always in the back of my mind around here...[t]hey can take it away . . . [w]ell, they did. Now what? Can't sell my house. Main Street's boarding up. The kids around here are getting into drugs. You wonder when's the last train leaving this station? I just never believed it was going to happen."

Today, the strip club across the street from the plant is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting place, the local food bank serves 10 percent more people than it did a year ago, and there are people in the welfare line who never thought they would be there. After the plant closed last winter, unemployment in Janesville was among the highest in Wisconsin, but lately has gone down to 11%.

Photo: Danny Wilcox Frazier, for Mother Jones

Most factory workers who were laid off draw their salary for one year, and one-half their salary for the second year, but then they're out of luck. "We took it for granted," says Nancy Nienhuis, 76, a retired factory nurse who farms on the outskirts of town. "The rumor would start, they're talking about closing the plant. No one would believe it . . . [t]he manager and the worker sat next to each other in church, you see? They went to high school together. Understand?," said another. Richard, a former plant welder, laments, "I'm 62 and I'm delivering doughnuts. What am I going to do? . . . [i]t's a discouraging thing." Another resident, 61, says, "It was the lifeblood of this town. It was the identity of this town. Now we have nothing, nothing but worry."

While the lost income is a serious consequence of the plant closing, in a way, it also sheds light on a 'grass is always greener' kind of scenario. The folks in Janesville yearn for those monotonous, dangerous factory jobs they lost. However, thinking back, one resident described it, "You're a machine." [He put bumpers on trucks - three bolts, three washers, three nuts - every minute for eight hours]. "You just went home thinking nothing except the work tomorrow and your whole life spent down in that hole. And you thinking how you're going to get out. Well, now it's gone and alls we're thinking about is wanting to have it back." Maybe this is a call for redevelopment of cleaner industry. At the risk of sounding overly optomistic, when a town suffers a loss such as this one by GM, it's an opportunity to start over, to build up from ground level using new technology that will be kinder to both the mind and the body.

For now, Janesville's largest employers are Mercy Health System and the Janesville School District. There remains some hope that the old GM plant could re-open, retrofitted to produce new, greener technology like wind, solar and electric. Yet, it is a distant hope. Earlier this year, another GM plant in Michigan beat out Janesville as the site to produce GM's new subcompact small car. However, the Wisconsin state Democrats recently announced a program that would create jobs, particularly in green retrofitting for manufacturing industries. The Wisconsin Connecting Opportunity, Research, and Entrepreneurship (C.O.R.E.) Jobs Act is a comprehensive economic development package that builds on successful job creation programs and capitalizes on state strengths. It's top priority is to "rebuild Wisconsin’s economy, and put our men and women back to work." Hopefully, residents of Janesville will benefit from this C.O.R.E. program, should it be successful. The economic recession may have had a small lump of good in it - in that it has caused policymakers to take a second look at rural areas and see what kinds of renewal are possible there that will help both the local and national economies. There may be potential for Janesville plant if demand for green technology increases. Until then, Janesville remains on standby.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mexican pot gangs infiltrate Indian reservations in U.S.

In keeping with a recent theme to the blog posts, I offer a second chapter to my earlier post regarding crime on Native American reservations, this Wall Street Journal article on how Mexican marijuana growers have taken up shop on the more rural Native American reservations. According to the article, tighter border control has lead Mexican drug dealers to move closer to their prospective customers. Until recently, their favorite hiding places were national park lands and national forests. While this is still a growing trend (the article states that officials raided pot “grows” in 61 national forests in 2009 up from 49 in 2008), drug enforcement is finding an alarming increase in major marijuana operations on Indian land. In Washington State, more than 225,000 pot plants were seized on Indian land in 2008, a ten-fold increase from 2006.

The Mexican drug cartels are picking Indian land for a few simple reasons: it’s closer and cheaper to produce their product and get it to market, many reservations have a sizeable itinerant population that includes migrant agricultural workers, and reservation economies are so bad many Indians, as well as illegal migrant workers, are getting paid to tend the crops. The police chief of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation (located in central Oregon, the reservation is 1,000 sq. miles over half of which is forested, with a population of around 3,700), stated that the cartel operating on the reservation was paying its "tenders" up to $2,000 a month. As the article points out, these payments have created an economy in these rural areas where few employment opportunities exist. Last year, Warm Springs law enforcement confiscated 12,000 pot plants, with an estimated value of $10 million dollars. Given the median annual salary of most rural Native Americans is $6,667, the drug jobs could be considered extremely desirable employment.

Photo: pot “grow” on tribal land in Washington

Perhaps the most important aspect for the cartels is the extreme rural nature of many reservations accompanied by a dearth of law enforcement. For example, the Colville reservation in north central Washington covers 1.4 million acres, has a population of around 5,000, but only 19 tribal police officers. On the Yakima reservation in south central Washington (2,185 square miles with a population of around 31,000), drug runners are believed to have planted hundreds of acres of marijuana and have even begun running weapons back to Mexico. The gunrunning from tribal lands in Washington has become so prevalent, Washington now ranks fourth in the Nation behind Texas, California, and Arizona, respectively.

Photo: Tribal lands are often so rural, helicopters must be used to get to the “grows.”

The article offers no answers. Answers may be more difficult to find than the marijuana. Is more federal involvement needed? This could create serious problems with jurisdiction and tribal sovereignty. Is the answer simply more money? More money for tribal law enforcement and better tribal economies would certainly help but these reservations are so vast and so rural, the cost of enforcement may exceed the benefits of that enforcement. Would legalizing marijuana perhaps be the answer? It may bring these cartels out into the open, or perhaps the legal market would destroy the need for these illicit operations much the same way the end of prohibition was the death knell of the rumrunners.

Bad basketball and rurality

A rather odd article in The New York Times, entitled "In Rural Indiana, Even Basketball Suffers," discusses the challenges that face a high school basketball team in Medora, Indiana, population 538. The challenges the article discusses really run the gamut - everything from rural poverty, low school and town morale, drug use, crime, low levels of education, broken families, female-headed households, to the dying economy.

The article focuses on the Medora Hornets, Medora High School's basketball team, and its first year coach Marty Young, who at 23, is the youngest head coach in the state. No other high school basketball team has as dire a record as the Hornets do. Last season, the Hornets were 0-22 and the school has won only one championship in its whole history - 1949. What I found so strange about this article was that it is not at all what I expected. In just the first few paragraphs, the article has all the ingredients for the "uplifting" sports success story: a group of "misfits," flagging morale, and a history of failure, etc. Add the unconventional young coach who motivates and supports the kids and you have the formula inspirational success story right?

Wrong. Just as I thought this article was going in the vein of The Mighty Ducks or The Benchwarmers, I got to the part of the article that reports that the young coach is not expecting "many, if any, on-court victories" this season either (emphasis mine). Even if the team's prospects are bleak, that's a very negative thing for a coach to say. I was a little taken aback at this point, but then Young redeemed himself with the next line of the article: "But he counts wins and losses differently from most. 'If they're in the gym these two hours, then I know they're not in trouble,' Young said."

Reassured by that quote, I was ready for the rest of the "inspirational" story, but the article just continued to be what I felt was unnecessarily negative and very subtly condescending. For example:
"In these depressed times, there is little to cheer but the high school basketball team. Except that it does not win."
"Medora, about 65 miles west of Milan, could be this generation's anti-Hoosiers." (Referring to the 1986 film Hoosiers, which was based on Milan's 1954 small-town team winning the state championship.)
"A few had natural ball-handling ability and smooth shooting touches. Most looked like extras from gym class."
The article also rather incoherently highlights some odd facts. It says that Medora HS is a small school (its senior class has only 16 members) and that the town's economy has been declining since the late 1980's when many of its largest employers began closing. It then goes on to quote Penny England, one of the students' mothers, as saying, "That's when, basically, Medora started falling apart." This quote is immediately followed by another block of strangely thrown-together facts:
"Now, Powell said, she is leery to be alone downtown where boys loiter. ('There ain't much to do in this small town,' Wes Ray, a senior basketball player, said.) She lives 'out in the boonies,' she said, where a neighbor was a 'meth head.' The home's three children (born to three fathers) sometimes ran over the hill to her house to escape his abuse. They are now in foster care. One is on the basketball team."
This strange hodgepodge of facts left me with a lot of questions. Is the author saying that the team's performance suffers because of its school's small size? Is it because the town has a poor economy? If it's the poor economy, which began declining in the late 1980s when the town started to "fall apart," why was the state championship just as elusive between 1949 and the late 1980s? What is the relationship between a poor economy and a high school basketball team's poor performance? Not enough funds for a good coaching staff? Good equipment? An adequate practice space? The article never really says.

And then there was that bizarre transition to Ms. Powell reporting that she is afraid to be downtown alone and the parenthetical quote from Wes Ray that there's not a lot to do in small towns. Is the implication that because there's not a lot to do in Medora, high school boys somehow prey on lone women in the downtown area for lack of something better to do? What does this have to do with basketball?

The author uses the reference to the "meth head" and the child in foster care as an opportunity to discuss the epidemic of broken families among the basketball players. He notes that several of the students see their coach as a father figure. Is the implication here that lack of a father figure results in poor sports performance? Or crime and drug use and lack of motivation? Perhaps not, but I found even that subtle suggestion offensive. Throughout the article, the author just seems to lay out facts and then fails to draw any connections between them.

Furthermore, the article casts Coach Young as a minor hero among a town of drug addicts, criminals, young hoodlums, and lazy adults - the author is sure to differentiate him from the rest of the Medora residents. Though Young himself grew up on a farm, the article notes that he did so "comfortably," attended a much larger high school, and even attended college. Here are a couple more excerpts that very clearly differentiate Young from the poor, uneducated Medora crowd:
"'I've been to college,' Young said. 'I've seen a lot of stuff. But these kids that I'm teaching in sixth grade know more about what goes on in the street than I ever thought of. This small, rural town.'"
"Young thought his best player last year, a senior who scored nearly half the team's points, was good enough to play in college. He used connection to get him tryouts. The boy did not show up for them, and now works at a nearby logging mill. 'It's a struggle when they're given a chance and don't take it,' Young said."
Nevermind trying to figure out what that student's reasoning for skipping the tryouts was - no money for college? Family to support? Who cares, right? At least the articles doesn't seem to. And whatever the connection is between having "been to college" and knowing "what goes on in the street" is beyond me. The only purpose I see in that quote is just another opportunity to highlight the coach's college education.

Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive about rural bias after having taken this class, but the article really seems to be unnecessarily and unfairly negative, not just about the basketball team, but about rural Medora as well.