Into the rural heartland

Posted on Tuesday 28 April 2009

Polimom and Dear Husband spent the past weekend in the Arkansas mountains (again) — but this time, we weren’t hiking or canoeing.  Rather, we were poking around at real estate, hoping to find a vacation spot (aka Polimom’s “Bolt Hole”).

In fact, since Adorable Child is approaching high school age, we’re open to retirement possibilities as well.   Thus, we were considering several properties that were a step up from traditional cabins — and because of that, my mind was evaluating the area on an entirely different level.

I encountered some potential problems.

There was, for instance, the unmarked, papered-over storefront in one little town that (according to locals) is the home of a “survivalist mail-order” business, from which someone is shipping books and gear all over the country.

When I inquired further, I was reassured that all was well, since the business owner is a Republican.  (Hunh?)

And then there was this conversation that I had with the realtor:

Realtor:  Ummm….  don’t take this the wrong way, but did I just see a couple of black men working on a car at that house right there?

Polimom:  Why, yes.  I believe you did.

Realtor: Here??????

**long pause**

Polimom:  Ummm…. don’t take this the wrong way, but I found that very normal and reassuring.


Now, before you take this post the wrong way, I’d like to point out that every person I’ve encountered up there has been as nice an individual as I’ve ever met.

From the local cafe (where you can still get breakfast for under $5) to the grocery store to the guy renting canoes, people are exceptionally warm and friendly — more so than anywhere I’ve ever been.  Ever.

Furthermore, folks in the area do not evoke scenes from Deliverance (at least, not all of them, and no more so than any other rural area in the U.S.).   Nobody peered at us suspiciously.  There were no silences when we walked into various groups and gatherings.  No snaggle-teeth or crossed-eyes.

This is a nice place, with wonderful people.

Thus, I don’t see that mail-order business as a typical occupation.  I can’t help raising an eyebrow, though, at the easy acceptance of it.

Nor is the population exclusively Anglo (though it is skewed heavily that direction).  There’s a significant Hispanic population as well as an Asian presence — and both groups appear to be assimilated well into the local community.

But there are no African-Americans, as near as I could tell.

I’m not yet sure what this all means to me in terms of investing in a vacation property up there…  but I decided that perhaps we need to hold off on retirement thoughts.


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