Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's Raining In The New Old West

It's raining outside and the newsroom where I work smells of sewer. Men mostly now dead if not entirely placed the system in town during the WPA days and open grates line the sidewalks. When it rains, those grates, they fill up, cause a stir.

In the newsroom we adjust.

Living in the mountains, adjustment becomes a default position. And folks say we can't change. Change is all we can ever manage. Some things stay the same, but survival demands adaptation. Dealing with the scent of raw sewage is a walk in the park compared to watching train after train take coal out and come back empty while our buildings and schools stand in disrepair, while three blocks away more than a dozen people stand outside a community action program door waiting to hear if they can get help with heating assistance.

A walk in the park.

Hardly noticed while the new industry is the pill trade. People I watched grow up are now adults, enterprising young adults honing their business skills by filling prescriptions of painkillers counties or states away and rerouting them back to the mountains to be sold at $10 or $15 or $20 a pill. Selling themselves for pills. Selling others for pills. The new trade.

The New Old West – Eastern Kentucky. And folks don't always like to look this problem straight in the eye. Many would rather dwell on the natural beauty of our land, the Appalachian Mountains cast in morning fog, etc. etc. And that's fine. I do plenty of that myself. I think we are a resilient people, as has been said more times than I can count. But the reality is if you don't own a gun as a resident of this place, you're going to need to buy one.

But I ramble.

The rain has eased up, but the scent it brought remains. Five people I worked with not more than two weeks ago don't have to worry about this problem today. They are now unemployed, the offices where they will go for help, a few blocks down from the community action's post, offers a crowd of people three times the size. They stand in line and hope for work while the young adults sit nearby, waiting on a buy, and smiling.

Maybe everyone shouldn't have a gun.

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