Rural America

Our Trap

The otter, too small to be a wily adult and too unschooled to be fearful of people, was sunning itself on the ice of a small, city park lake when the lovely Catherine and I, also enjoying the sunshine, spotted it on a late-winter walk. Our surprised voices surprised the juvenile and it made a […]

Read More

Slouching Toward 2014

In this space on Feb. 2, 2014, I offered a blunt assessment of the just-passed (and still current) Farm Bill and its key handler, Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican who was chairman of the House Ag Committee.
In particular, I criticized Lucas’s description of the legislation that he and his Senate counterpart, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, […]

Read More

A Time to Choose

It’s difficult to improve on Mark Shields’ apt description of today’s Trump White House: “It’s like East Berlin,” observed Shields, a long-time political operative and pundit, during a recent interview, “there’s more people wanting out than wanting in.”
That was true Feb. 12 after the White House released its 2019 budget titled “An American Budget: Efficient, […]

Read More

Grandmother’s Quilt, Grandfather’s Ghost

A slightly frayed, white and peach-trimmed quilt now lays unfolded on one of our spare beds. Twenty-nine of its 30 squares each feature the carefully stitched name of one member of the Ladies Aid of Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural Rising City, NE.
The stitching on the quilt’s 30th and final block, also in peach and […]

Read More

Rising Woe in Rural America

The gap between America’s rural poor and non-poor, like in urban America, continues to widen. The difference in rural America, however, is that the gap is widening faster than in any of the nation’s grittiest cities or suburban counties.
That’s the conclusion of two recent reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University […]

Read More

Those Not Around the Table

The scarlet and gold promise of mid-harvest has slipped into the gray, damp reality of early winter. Last month we smiled at sun-kissed crops; this month we smile when we see the sun.
On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, November was a month more endured than enjoyed. Its most memorable features were muddy […]

Read More

Willful Ignorance

Michael Lewis is a serious writer with a list of serious bona fides: Princeton bachelor’s degree, master’s from the London School of Economics, a stint on Wall Street and author of best-selling, non-fiction books like Money Ball, The Big Short, and The Blind Side. All were Hollywood box office hits. He also writes for the […]

Read More

Lazy Dogs

A joke bouncing around the ag grapevine shines more light on where rural America’s politics are than where its funny bone actually is. The abridged version goes like this:
My dog sleeps 20 hours out of 24, eats free food prepared for him every day, gets free medical care, free housing, and never cleans up any […]

Read More

Regular Order

For Congressional Republicans, a late winter and early spring of small hiccups turned into a summer of bigger roadblocks. Now, just days into fall, spectacular failure looms.
At the center of all this stumbling is the impossible-to-undo Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Senate and House Republicans have tried mightily to deliver on their ACA […]

Read More

Cat’s Feet

The early morning fog, like poet Carl Sandburg once noted, arrived on cat’s feet and remains, napping, on the lake until a warming sun causes it to slip away the way it came, in silence.
Fifty years ago I watched the September fog while waiting for the morning school bus on the southern Illinois dairy farm […]

Read More