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rural life: desirable?

Would you choose to live in a place like Reydon, Oklahoma?

As the plows of depopulation and decay slice through the Plains, these are the people who remain. Many would never think of moving. Some are too old or unskilled to have a choice. Many families like the Bartons, the Yowells, the Calverts and the Lippencotts in Reydon have members who do go away, for the Army, maybe, or college, and then come back to build new generations.

Some aspects of this kind of life appeal to me. I admit, though, that even if you could find productive and satisfying work, rural life might somehow stifle your cultural and intellectual life. You'd be reduced to eating baked beans at the diner and talking about. . .sports? Hunting?

What if you had access to broadband internet?

While the Internet is changing the world economy, technology experts say, "large parts of rural America are losing out on jobs, economic development and civic participation" because of inadequate access to the Internet. Traversing vast expanses of remote and often rugged topography presents unique financial and technological barriers.

Perhaps, if it's true that our economy is shifting to a greater reliance on "information" and away from activities that require people to concentrate in one location, the trend toward the depopulation of our rural areas might be reversed. It might be possible to live in Reydon, Oklahoma and still find a diverse array of economic opportunities.

Here's to hope.


I live in Morris, Minnesota, pop. 5000. It's a small town on the western edge of the state, roughly equidistant (2-3 hour drive) from Fargo, Sioux Falls, and Minneapolis. We're basically in the ass end of nowhere.

And it's not bad.

The internet helps, but it's no substitute for actually getting off your butt and experiencing something. An even greater help is that this is a college town -- we have a reasonably lively intellectual life here (although it could be better), and we get a regular dose of the arts. We also lack all the aggravations of urban life, which is another big boost. Baked beans and hunting don't really come up all that often in our conversations.

Actually, the biggest, most common gripe about living here that I hear is from single people. Small town living greatly limits the pool of prospective mates, especially if you are an academic. And if you are married, it's often very difficult for spouses to find appropriate work. With fewer potential relationships, it's harder to link up, especially when you are used to the greater wealth of possibilities back in the Big City.

I chose to move here from Philadelphia. It may be a bit of a surprise, but I actually haven't encountered any intellectual impoverishment. The choices were much richer in Philly, of course, but the hassle was also significantly greater if you wanted to experience them. We're finding that without the barrier of urban expenses and travel, we're talking advantage of the smaller number of options here more often.

Case in point: the Koresh Dance Company just put on a show here. They're from Philly. We never saw them while we lived there because it was just too much trouble to pack up the kids and travel from the suburbs to center city for something like that. Here, we walked across the street, joined a few friends, and had a great time.

I have a real interest in seeing decent Internet access come to rural communities. I'd much rather live on a mountain somewhere than where I live now, but I can't really move out there because I'm an IT professional and most of the jobs are near urban centers.

Maybe what we need is a Rural Electrification-type program with fiber optics.

To each his/her own.... Until September of this year I lived in Marion, Arkansas, a "semi-rural" (i.e., mixture of suburban bedroom community and small farming town) town 15-20 minutes from downtown Memphis, TN. Prior to that I lived in St. Charles County, MO (in St. Charles, MO and in St. Peters, MO), a northern suburb of St. Louis. After spending the last 10 years in suburban exile I decided I had to get urban again and moved to midtown Memphis. Even as close to Memphis as Marion was (and at least we got cable broadband 'net access there) it was still too rural for me.

A propos PZ's point, though, at least in a small college town you are assured some intellectual stimulation (and access to the 'net through the college 'network). I could handle that, though I'd wish for a larger dating pool of women my own age (I'm old enough to be the father of most of the undergrad women, I fear...).

I've always wanted to live in a commune in the middle of nature. As long as there was a T1 line going in, and I could go to Peru every once in a while.

In a heartbeat.