I was born and raised about 70 miles from where my family and I now live. I grew up in a small town & wished and wished I’d been from a bigger area. When I was finally old enough to set out on my own, I did … finding myself first on the Eastern coast of the United States, and later on the Western coast of the United States. I began to grow tired of the urban lifestyle, and was making plans to move to a tiny town in the Midwest when I met my wife, settled down and headed back to the original area.
We live near a border between two states, and as I commute I see a large sign warning boat owners that they need to have a stamp proving they’ve been inspected for some invasive mollusk or they can be heavily fined. When I lived in Washington state, there was a portion of the state that had a fruit quarantine sign to prevent fruit fly invasions. Though less invasive itself, these signs are lite versions of the searches we go through when leaving or entering the country.
Invasive species are interesting. Sometimes they are introduced because of some perceived benefit. Some fish have been introduced to areas to provide sport fishing opportunities, hopefully bringing more revenue to areas of the state that didn’t have much to offer before. These fish later eat native fish eggs or spread disease, and then it isn’t possible to reverse the damage. Some insects are brought in, unnaturally, to provide “natural” alternatives to pesticides. Each summer we catch more and more preying mantises that had been released into the area in the late 1980’s, and are still being used by gardeners. These are interesting but nevertheless non-indigenous critters in the area. Often, too, invasive species are simply stow-a ways, never invited to an area, but delivered alongside imported goods.
In the 1990’s hunting was really good in the area. My dad used to go out one morning during hunting season and come back later in the day with our meat for the winter. He mostly got mule deer because white tails were not too common out in our desert. Sometimes we’d pass other hunters, but those were mostly in the hills above the big city in the area. There were more than enough deer to go around.
During the years I was away, our small town of 5,000 exploded to a suburb-town of almost 13,000. Giant houses popped up where the fields used to be, fast food joints began to outnumber the bars, and crime increased, so the one policeman we had growing up got to open an actual police station and hire several additional policemen. The people who lived in the giant houses were strange. Two or three people would live in a home with enough square feet to put our farmhouse of eight easily inside with room to spare. Some of the homes went empty most of the year around – they served as second homes or investments. Even the empty homes used the groundwater wells to irrigate their acre-lawns, set with timers and maintained infrequently by a gardener. Farmers had to deepen their wells to have water to drink. Eventually the problem got bad enough that, in 2009, the state had to outlaw industrial use of the well-water. Farmers lost out to absentee home-owners.
We moved to our town a few years ago. We were greeted everywhere we went by people who said “Oh, you’re that California couple” or “You came down here from Seattle, didn’t cha?” I’d warned my wife ahead of time to respond to those questions by saying “my husband is originally from here, and I am from central Oregon, and we met while living in Seattle, but wanted to be closer to family.” As much of a mouthful as that was, the locals would relax & we’d have normal conversation after that. Our neighborhood was both “homey” and interesting at the same time. When we first moved here, we were next door to a hot-rod club, and every Sunday there’d be interesting – and loud – cars up and down the block. Holidays were filled with “illegal” fireworks and lots of beer. It was a different lifestyle than I’d grown up with, but in the years since, I wasn’t as uptight about other people’s choices in entertainment.
Last year we went hunting north of here. The normally-quiet mountains were buzzing with four-wheel drives, camps abandoned for the day were filled with beer cans and expensive luxury SUVs parked alongside fancy tents. It wasn’t hard to tell that most of these “hunters” weren’t from around here, and one could guess just as easily that they were hunting for antlers more than dinner. I hoped that maybe this was just how these mountains were, and maybe others would be different, so we headed a hundred miles south to our desert. While not as noisy (there were a lot more places to camp), trails of dust-clouds showed us where these “hunters” had gone, and where the game were not. In two weeks of hunting, I only saw one deer, and it was swimming off an Island that was being buzzed by a jet boat.
In the neighborhood where my parents still live (it used to be an isolated farm), the big-house neighbors sometimes try to get them to join a “neighborhood association”. They haven’t, however, and it’s probably a good thing. It would hurt to see mom and dad railroaded into painting their mailbox a certain color, or having to keep their vehicles parked out of view. They have been forced to join a sort of “irrigation group”, and aren’t allowed to water their lawn on certain days. Sometimes there are conflicts with the neighbors who live in the mega-houses, because it’s always my parent’s fault when there are problems with the water.
The grade school where our 6-year old attends still teaches the kids the pledge of allegiance. Our town hall has a brass “ten commandments” in front of it, and it’s normal to see side arms on regular citizens in the grocery store and walking through the park. On a hill overlooking the valley, a large cross is lit at night, stationed near the radio towers for the area. Nearby is a business center in a neighboring town that is known as “Gayway Junction” because there used to be a pink bowling alley there. Though I don’t personally agree with all of these things, I do enjoy living in an area largely untouched by the censoring hand of socialist “equality”. There is richness in the character of the area.
I finally found a good hunting spot, sort of. It’s tricky, because some people have managed to buy land on top of all of the hills in the area, and have built giant houses with grand glass walls overlooking the prairies and valleys. Their driveways snake up in the sliver of “Public land” that remains, but if you follow it past their homes, the public land opens up, and as long as they haven’t been sneaky and posted “no trespassing” signs on the public land (which is illegal, but they do it with buckets that can easily be removed), there may be some good places to hunt.
Some of the other public land has been in the news lately because “Mexican nationals” have been raising marijuana out in the hills. We’re advised to be cautious in those areas, because the ‘tenders’ often carry assault rifles and know the area really well. Most of the violent crime in our area is committed by “Mexican nationals” and first generation naturalized Mexicans. A city 40 minutes south of us has a higher violent crime rate per capita than Los Angeles, and gang affiliation and drug cartels are mostly to blame. They came here to supply a demand, and the bigger portion of that demand came here with the big-house people and their occasional children. I think that people should have an opportunity to live in America when it will help them better themselves. Gangs and drugs should not be part of this opportunity, though.
Local politicians are always talking about “bringing in jobs”, but we never see the jobs. We just see the houses and the expensive cars. When we are out for a Sunday afternoon drive, we always see their big houses on top of the hills. Usually someone says, “I wonder what they do?” I wonder too. It’s too great a commute to drive to the nearest city, and this area’s two major employers are Wal-Mart and the prison. You don’t make big-house-on-a-hill money working for either.
In our neighborhood the hot rod club has gone away, but a couple neighbors still work on their cars and trucks. I think they work hard to fine-tune their vehicles to make as much noise as possible. Every other day, my house rumbles as a guy down the road fires up an old pickup. It happens every few hours, sometimes into the night. There is a city ordinance that specifically bars “engine revving” from within city limits, and it wouldn’t be that difficult to make a phone call and have him stopped, but though I’m “within my rights”, I just can’t bring myself to do it. He was here first.