Monday, April 03, 2017

Seven ways life has improved in rural America

Renn's childhood home in Harrison County
Rural life in America isn't as bad as current events might make you think. "In a number of ways life has just plain gotten better in rural America in the past two to three decades," Aaron Renn writes for The Urbanophile. Renn, who grew up in rural Southern Indiana in the 70s and 80s, lists seven ways life has improved for its residents.

1. Water service. The water that city folks sometimes use to water their flowers "with runoff they caught in their 'rain barrel'," is the same water Renn drank growing up. "No city water service was available, so you had no choice but to dig a well or have a cistern. We had a cistern that was filled with rainwater from our roof," and an industry of people would refill it from a tanker truck, Renn writes. "Today, people where I grew up have access to water service if they want it."

2. Trash service. With no public or commercial trash pickup, Renn says that rural folks in Harrison County "had to throw food scraps to animals" and "burn trash in a 55-gallon drum." He adds, "When it filled up with tin cans and the like, or if you needed to dispose of a larger item like a TV, lots of people had their own dumps on their property. Today you can get commercial trash pickup if you want it."

3. Private telephone lines. "Believe it or not, when I was a kid we had a party line," Renn writes. "That means multiple families shared the same phone line. If you needed to make a call, you’d pick up the phone and find out if your neighbors where using the line before dialing. You couldn’t get a private line unless somebody who had one died first. Somewhere along the way, the phone company put in an upgrade and you could get a private phone line. (On the downside, it’s no longer possible to dial people in town using just four digits anymore)."

4. Paved roads. Though most roads in the county were paved, quite a few were still gravel, Renn writes. "Today the roads are all in amazing shape because of the casino, but even before then my road and others were paved using a technique called 'chip and seal.' Basically this involves spraying some kind of tar on the road, then covering it in fine gravel, which is compacted into a paving surface. No more massive clouds of dust."

5. Satellite TV. Renn reasons that there may have been cable in the county seat, "but most folks were stuck with 4-5 over the air channels showing I Love Lucy reruns. Today, thanks to satellite TV, people in rural America have access to every channel you can get in town."

6. Internet Service. "The web hadn’t even been invented back in the 70s and 80s," Renn notes. "The internet was a small, government and academic network. Today, there’s pretty wide broadband availability through either some kind of DSL type service or satellite internet. My father has satellite internet and it works pretty good if you ask me."

7. Amazon, Apple and Netflix. Rural residents now have access to "everything from designer clothing to pretty much every book ever published," Renn writes. "The days of needing to be in a big city with a cool indie record store in order to get good tunes is over. You can now get access to products people in Chicago couldn’t dream of when I was a kid."

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