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Think You’ll be Better Off in Rural America? Think Again.

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September 12, 2012 in Preparedness



A visit to the Owsley County, KY website shows a flowing waterfall and touts the area as “A Great Place to Live and Work.” But according to the 2010 Census, it is the poorest county in the nation, with a median household income of $19,351. Wikipedia has the median income listed as $15,805. More than 41% of all residents fall below the poverty line. Settled sometime around 1780, the area has a deep, proud history of self-sustainability through subsistence farming, trapping and hunting, and, being in the heart of Appalachia, moonshining.But based on photos taken by Discovery channel, you’d never know it.


Located about a day’s drive from where I live now, Owsley County looks like the kind of place I’d rather be. Tucked away in the mountains overlooking rolling fields, Google images gives me an immediate sense of privacy and the desire to do some good, hard work outdoors. I envision canning jars lining my pantry shelves and venison jerkey in the dehydrator. I see a small, simple house with a Franklin stove. What I don’t see in my vision is the government.

But in 2009, government benefits accounted for over 53% of personal income in Owsley County. Given the recent rise in food stamp use, and the number of increasing jobless, I can’t help but wonder if the rest of rural America is headed the way of Owsley County. Discovery photographers show us Mose Noble, a former chimney sweep, who despite government and neighborly assistance, has no running water or electricity. His trailer’s kitchen is strewn with dishes and filth. Is this Obama’s vision of hope? Is this what Romney sees as the “fulfillment of the American dream” of homeownership?

There’s also a photo of a lucky young people getting ready to go to prom, which gives the whole community a sense of joy and morale for a little while. I can’t help but wonder how many girls couldn’t afford a dress, or had to find a babysitter. How many young people are hooked on meth in Owsley County? I get the feeling it’s replaced homemade whiskey as the new bootlegging. And I’m not surprised. People will do whatever it takes to make money if they have no other skills.

Education and jobs are scarce in Owsley County. And despite the rich, fertile soil, niche markets like organic farming have not yet come into the economy. Not one picture shows the canning jars from my vision. Sure, these people are poor, but why does it seem as if they’ve given up? Where are the photos of the thriving “poor”? Or is that something else that only exists in my head?

So for those of us who dream of taking off to live on our own in the woods with no government intervention, think again. The problems this nation has are not confined to the cities. Government dependence is has taken deep roots and is the new culture. People who would rather take a handout, or who have no choice but government support, are going to be your new neighbors. You’ve stocked food, water, and ammo. But have you prepared for a government-dependent America?




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24 responses to Think You’ll be Better Off in Rural America? Think Again.

  1. @William – I think you may need to re-read my article and also view the original pictures again. You seem to be completely ignoring the fact that I stated in my vision of surviving in the country on very little income I saw canning jars, venison jerkey, and a wood stove. These things are missing from the photos. Not one single caption says something to the effect of “this person is on food stamps, but supplements with their garden and hunting.”
    The point of my article is that while many people do live very happily off little to no money, there is a growing segment of the population that has given up taking care of themselves. And those people are no longer confined to the cities. People moving to the country to escape the dependent mentality may get a rude awakening that the problem is nationwide.
    Did you miss where I asked “where are the photos of the thriving poor?” That statement brings recognition to the idea that people can do quite well without much money. You, on the other hand, are too busy taking offense and calling me jealous instead of trying to get the point of the article.

  2. You can not compare city income to rural income… come on, it just doesnt work like that. cost of living in the country is much much lower. i disagree.

  3. “So for those of us who dream of taking off to live on our own in the woods with no government intervention, think again.” so what is she saying? go live in the city? you have got to be kidding me. i would rather live next to a hillbilly that is collecting food stamps any day of the week. at least when the poop hits the fan, he’ll know how to skin a buck and run a trout line and work a garden. geez there is no escaping this country collapse but your better off in the country side. i completely disagree with this article’s context.

    • Based on the original Discovery article, these people AREN’T skinning bucks and running trout lines and growing gardens. If they were doing so, and happy about it, they would be the kind of people I was referring to when I said “thriving poor.” No, I’m not at all recommending people stay in the city. What I’m saying is that if you think you’re gong to move into the woods and find a tight-knit community that can make it their own, it likely won’t happen. People we have traditionally thought of as being able to fend for themselves are choosing not to.

      • where do you live? i live it! i live in rural America and love the tightness everyone has. my neighbor is on food stamps and he does just what you think he doesnt and that is skinning deer, trapping, fishing and planting a huge garden. along with chickens, ducks and much more. does he milk the system like many other… not me to judge. I still disagree with you. Hey ya know that big storm that blew through the area in which you state… the east coast? That storm wrecked the entire area, including utilities and there were no utilities for weeks and all my food stamp loving neighbors couldnt go shopping because all the gas stations and stores were closed because there was no electricity and everyone loved the quiet, and less hustle and bustle but taadaa… no one died…why? because they when fishing, ate their canned food… oh wait no garden you say? yes they canned their garden veggies. there are many tight nit communities around the rurals areas and most of them barter and trade together. i just think you are jealous because you couldnt fit in with your area. I DISAGREE WITH YOU, youre wrong. you can stay in the city as for me… “a country boy will survive!”

  4. I enjoyed your article, and I live in rural America, Texas to be more exact. I know it’s quite different here in west Texas from the situation you described. I love the small community I live in and although it has similar problems, such as drugs, I still believe personally that it beats the fast pace of a big city. Employment is no easy to find, but I’m a firm believer in the notion that if you have a will to work , you can find it. I have, and it had been the most honest work I have done in my life. I’m new to the social media site so I’m still finding my footing so to speak, but I have been a listener of Alex for quite a while now. Thanks for writing the article I enjoyed reading it.

  5. Cant really say that those photos prove one dam thing.

    You can find the same kind of trashy mess in the city as well as in the country.

    If the country folk dont know how to survive in your neck of the woods find different woods.
    They do fine around here.

  6. If you own your house paid for — how much money do you need to live?? So long as you don’t own a newer car or buy designer clothes?? You need food, clothing, transportation, medical/dental expenses plus anything more you want. I have lived on $200 take-home (car was paid for). I was quite happy living pretty well, actually.

    So, what is poverty and what is not is sometimes relative. Depends on if you have things paid for without debt.

  7. This reminds me of a question I saw on another forum. You have a year of canned food, a hard winter’s worth of firewood, and a solar generator for your electric needs. You also have a rifle for hunting. But what will you do if someone comes knocking on your door asking for food? Will you turn them away? Will you give with the expectation that your goodwill will be repaid (yard work, repairs, etc.)? What if the person you turned away comes back armed? Or someone comes with the intent to raid your pantry without even asking first? Are you prepared to take a life to protect your family and your supplies? It’s well and good to be armed, but most people will have a problem with shooting someone who’s starving, but unless you want to feed every beggar in town, you should prepare youselves mentally for just that possibility.

  8. I’ve worked with a number of documentary makers, including Discovery, Nat’l Geographic, and BBC. While we focused on bugs rather than people, the first and most important thing I learned is that documentaries are 110% fake.

    Every project started with a preconceived idea and no amount of reality would change that. If they wanted to make a documentary about how cockroaches eat people’s feet, no matter how ludicrous the idea is, well then by God we’re all gonna rub jelly on our feet so they can film the cockroaches eating our flesh. The giant millipedes and centipedes in the jungles of Brazil were filmed in a large plexiglass tank in a mall parking lot in Phoenix, Arizona. That ‘bird eating spider’ only ate that just-hatched chick because it had been starved for the preceding three months.

    I don’t for one second believe people-focused documentaries are one bit different. A clean, capable person with stores of food, intelligent and self-reliant, doesn’t fit with their preconceived notions of either the Appalachians or poor people. Poor people are dirty and stupid and helpless. They need government help. They’re smelly and scary and you better stay away. Undoubtedly there’s plenty of perfectly happy, resourceful individuals in the area, as there is in backwoods Tennessee, Texas hill country, the Alaska bush and the Louisiana bayou.

    Aside from crews likely being uninterested in that portrayal, there’s a good chance those people don’t want the whole world to see how much great loot they got stashed away, too.

    • Excellent response. Thank you!

      • “Poor people are dirty and stupid and helpless. They need government help. They’re smelly and scary and you better stay away.”

        i agree with all the above to some degree except for stupid and helpless, just dont hop my barb wire fence, we are scary.

        I’ll drop you off in the deepest part of the woods with a Hatchet and see how long it would take you to send me an email.

  9. True an Outsider is not likely to be welcomed to a small community like that how ever if you are well known there and not in a bad way. I still think it would be a way better place to be.

  10. Still better than the city which is filled with pillhead zombies. Why is it every-time they show poor people it’s messy, you would think if you have no job, wake up and clean your freakin house. Seeds are cheap grow something. As long as the gov checks keep rolling in they will have no motivation to learn or do anything. The gov checks wont come forever especially if the country goes under.

    • “Poor is no excuse for messy” was definitely a thought I had while looking at the pictures. And I completely agree about getting seeds. That’s where my “thriving poor” statement came from. You can be broke and still keep a clean house and grow a few tomatoes or some corn. I really wish this article would have shown some examples of families doing well with little to no money.

      • I agree with that.

        • although country living is “Dirty” and there is no way around it. you may be able to have a clean job in the city and not touch one oz of dirt, so comparing city life to country life again can not but judged like that. try cleaning out my cows and horse barn every day and try and keep the house spotless? it would be a full time job and nothing on the farm would get done.

  11. In a place like this it really could go either way. It depends greatly on the level of community felt by every person who lives in a particular area.

  12. Thought provoking. Thank You

  13. That place is still better than San Bernardino California!! San Bernardino has filed bankruptcy. San Bernardino is over run with criminal illegals, welfare cheats and violent gangs. Its deathly hot in the summer, nothing grows and unemployment is very high!

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