Recently I’ve taken up the responsibility at my job the weekly collection of farebox deposits and driver forms to be sent back to our main operations facility and be put into the record for the organization. It’s a lengthy drive, takes up all of my morning, across four rural counties where I live. I can’t say it’s a relaxing drive, (it can be but you have to stay vigilant for wildlife) but listening to audiobooks courtesy of Skeptical Waves is a nice way to have four and a half hours go by. I’ve been doing this drive now for two months or so, I wanted to offer you all some of my observations based on my trips. This will have some political undertones, but I wanted more to express the things I see not just on this drive but also my day to day life living in a much more rural part of the United States. This is more of a personal observation than it is analysis, but I thought you all would appreciate the small part of the world I live in.
Watching America Roll By
I live in a much more rural part of Texas, I have more livestock for neighbors than people, and kids still ride their horses to high school or to the local park. I’m a ways away from the nearest town of a sizeable population, a life that I’ve grown quite accustomed to since leaving the dusty brown streets of El Paso, Texas. If anything, the move to a more rural part of country had only hastened and hardened my drift down the rightward and religious path that I’m on. I think, if anything, makes those awful rom-coms played during Christmastime on Hallmark all the more believable when it comes to the issue of some female protagonist moving back to a small town from the city, and opting to stay with the man she met. (That’s probably the best take I can give on those movies.) Yet, there is something about the idyllic, the call to a time that the American zeitgeist long forgot in its dreams of growing up and moving out to make it big somewhere in the city for labor. This isn’t to say it is a recent phenomena, but as America has increasingly urbanized, the arteries and veins of highways and freeways has only accelerated the abandon for the small town.
There is certainly a distrust to outsiders, or at least to the ongoing creep of land being purchased as some kind of rural nest egg by those from the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex area. As someone who makes that drive on a regular basis, it is certainly worrisome to see DFW area metastasize this far from the city. There is still a remnant of the high trust society that still existed in small towns and close knit suburbs that are fading away at a rapid place. The areas I drive through are mostly homogenous, (the most diverse one still being over 70% White) but that doesn’t stop commerce, especially for those in the agricultural sector. Trucks and livestock trailers are a common thing here, livestock markets as well. This is definitely equine country, between various equine therapy centers (for both the disabled and horses alike,) and breeding groups. There are rolling hills of green and farmland, however the jutting tendrils of modernity erect themselves from the ground as wind turbines can be seen for miles along these FM roads. In a place that can get quite windy, as tornadoes and straight line winds happen with the season, I suppose it makes sense.
America’s religious heart is still well within the bible belt and the heartland. It isn’t surprising to see in some of these one road towns just the sheer number of churches that are there. Various forms of Protestantism, wherein you’ll find your Churches of Christ, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostal, and some with no name, but what is surprising is the growing number of established Churches. Within this area that I travel there are quite a few Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic, and Orthodox Churches. All of them of course an hour drive or so away from the larger towns where there are cathedrals. The United States, outside of the cities, still want that old time religion. In fact it’s a sign that I know that I’m near one of the towns that holds an office for our drivers and farebox, coming over that hill and looking down below and seeing the old church at the center of the town. Something that’s no longer found aside from these old frontier towns of the 19th century.
Politics is very much Alive
Many of us online might feel some sense of dissatisfaction and desire to not engage with our political system, Lord knows that I do, but I know there is a divide between the right that’s online against the right that works a farming job when it comes to voting and being participatory in elections, local, state and federal. Despite a place where local machinists and farmers are outnumbered and outgunned by political interests and businesses well beyond their ken; I still see more Trump flags, Let’s Go Brandon Flags, and “Fuck Biden” flags on trucks, flagpoles, and windows everywhere I go. Yet in a part of the country that is riddled by drugs (primarily opioids) and have no real impact on this nation’s porous borders and foreign policy, my gut feeling runs between rage and melancholy. Rage because these individuals are hoping that maybe next time they’ll get them (my thoughts on the 2020 Election are well known and public,) while no one truly represents their interests nationally. Yet I’m melancholic, because maybe by some chance, they’re thinking if they can hold out a little longer, and maybe some political Prester John will come riding over the hills to save them. Perhaps I’m a bit dour because I do a lot of talking and rubbing shoulders with local officials with my job, but if anything it does inspire me to keep working on localism.
But perhaps the upside with working in all these small towns, is that the national may be expressive and nothing more. More and more attention is indeed on the local. More and more ads were for state legislature candidates, county judges, and city councilmen than I did see for national candidates for the Republican Primary earlier this month.
As I’ve verbalized on streams and various Q&As, it makes sense for this to have such a here and now focus. In a world so easily ignored or dismissed as fly over country, it’s a world where you have yourselves. Yes of course there is the local wal-mart or mall (there’s actually quite a disdain against developing Dollar Generals) but you really have only yourself and the community to work with. People talk about their kids and the school after church, offer shelter during storms, and rebuild if someone is affected. I’ve done my fair share of calling neighbors to let them know about a gap in their fence as I help herd their cows back into their fields. The same with posting to local facebook pages about missing dogs, or warnings about boars. For us in Texas, wild boars and the damages is our version of the Emu War. When you’re far away from the horseshit of the capital cities of your state and country, the only smell that matters is the horseshit of your hometown and farm.
A Time Away from the World
While I had mentioned the occasional playlist earlier when I make this weekly drive, what often happens is that I forget to download them onto my phone. (I pay for YouTube Premium, sue me.) For most the drive I barely have any reception, which makes the time even better to not have too much going on or buzzing in the cupholder, or have the phone connected to the car via bluetooth yet not playing a single thing. This includes streams and such if I’m not listening to it after its live airing was done. It’s a way to disconnect from the political world and life I live, and to enjoy the time to have a moment to yourself and the road. On occasion there’s a song or two that I’ll play few times over and over, either due to no reception or that youthful sense of enjoying the emotional nostalgia that comes what the song evoked when you first heard it.
Part of me wondered how much of that was infantilizing, listening to the same songs and artists you listened to in high school. Nothing like listening to the same few sad boi albums that you listened to as a teenager trying to make sense of your life and what you wanted to do. Does one really want to wallow in the nostalgia (does that really mean old wound?) from their formative years growing up? Why am I listening to Motion City Soundtrack or Father John Misty again? Although earlier this week my Grandfather, who is well into his eighties was showing off a car he had purchased since someone had wrecked his old one. He was happy to show off the Sirius XM radio he has with it, set directly to a 50’s Station, the same time he was a young man. Is it modernity? Or is it just with every man we long for the rush and thrill to one again to come of age, with the knowledge we have now? Lord only knows I would. I think I would have gone into something that pays more.
Yet on the road it offers a unique experience to be alone with your thoughts, your inner monologue. I’ve known for a while now not everyone has one, which I find terrifying not to live life with one. What the hell goes on in that kind of brain? While it is often joked and meme’d around of “No Thoughts, Head Empty” but usually that’s a picture of a frog or something. Perhaps there is an explanation to this? We are only just beginning to ask how many people are in possession of that inner monologue and voice in their head. Will it continue to decline as the population rises? Pop music could be a good measure of this. With everything sounding so similar in its messaging, sounds and rhythms, I wonder if there’s correlation there to those without an internal monologue. Just keep listening to the sanctioned white noise, don’t listen to anything telling you internally that something is wrong.
You see why I try not to veer to far off from the political now.
Committing my Weekly Crime
I do take a great pleasure being away from the office, not that I mind the job that I do or that it’s particularly tasking; but it is of guilt that I’m the one getting to drive and say hello to everyone whilst calls and the weekly staff meeting takes place. I haven’t done enough here to really detail the rolling fields of farmland, small local airports, rod and gun clubs and more. Driving through towns that were clearly once one-road towns with still a healthy and vibrant main street.
Yet it always comes to an end, with the money being sent back to main facility, bags and keys dropped off, and the parking of the company care into the driveway in front of my office. And with a final few breaths, head back to the monotony of divorced, smoking WASPy women, and the one other male who is so morbidly obese you’d start wondering how he gets around on his two feet. So take pleasure in what you can, and rejoice, for being away from the office space and into the rolling fields of green and county roads is the greatest pleasure you can have.
So maybe next time, don’t fly, drive.