Rural Refugees and “I’ll Just Move to Montana”

My hometown is getting crowded. A place that used to only have a couple of restaurants has plenty, and old farms are becoming subdivisions by the year. And a lot of rural people are thinking about what they’ll do when the passing of generations or rising property taxes or crushing debt cause them to turn over their homesteads to the developers.

One idea I believe is common – for those who still want to be rural – is to move to Montana, or elsewhere in the mountain west.

I think there’s an unstated idea deep in the mind of every American (at least everyone jaded with the big city) that Montana is a place which will never run out of room, and that it will always be a haven for people fleeing from the subdividing of America.

This is untrue.

What happens when all these people get to Montana? Do we not expect that the same thing will happen there? Time will pass, and since generations hardly even try to pass down lifestyles and traditions anymore, the current crop of re-pioneers will see their children selling off the Montana land, too. The land will be re-zoned, the fields will be paved over. Suburban sprawl will continue.

No, Montana will not forever be a rural refuge, particularly if it gets swamped with the rest of America’s rural refugees (and urban refugees, for that matter). We’ve got to face, as the great agrarian Wendell Berry has urged, the closing of the frontier that happened in fact (if not in spirit) more than 100 years ago. It will be possible to flee to some remote corners for quite a while still, but it won’t be foolproof.

It’s better to take a stand where you can – where you and your family have been as far back as you can remember. Once a community’s farmland is paved over, the rural way of life is gone for good, or at least until a major social collapse. So don’t flee, or at least stay and prosper and fight to stay as long as you can. Save Montana for the Montanans, and save your home for you and your children.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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