In which our intrepid hero hopes that oil’s well that ends well…
Fracking concerns me, I admit it. I should hasten to point out that I do not, as many do, oppose fracking, no more than I oppose genetically modified crops. But I believe both technologies should be treated prudently, with an eye towards identifying and preventing problems. I am concerned about groundwater contamination, I am concerned about earthquakes. I can only hope that Ohio is wise enough to create a good regulatory and oversight foundation and will be proactive enough to try to deal with potential problems before they become actual ones.
Beyond that, though, I am concerned about something that it may not be within the power of the state of Ohio to regulate, and that is that Ohioans themselves will not benefit enough from fracking. One would think that it is a rare blessing that Ohio’s deposits are located in the economically blighted Ohio Appalachia; those areas certainly deserve a break, right? Yet it is those same areas that have Ohio’s traditional oil deposits as well, as can be seen by the hundreds and hundreds of wells dotting the countryside. And that traditional oil wealth seems not to have benefited eastern Ohioans much at all—so will fracking do so, or will the gains simply be siphoned out of the state, much like Ohio’s gambling money largely is? I hope the people who need the money the most get some of it.
In which our intrepid hero contemplates the passage of time…
For my 18th excursion across Ohio, I decided to head northwest, essentially in the direction of Findlay. Northwestern Ohio is heavily agricultural and relatively sparsely populated (until you get up to the Toledo area) and this excursion, conducted in mid-September, came at the tail end of Ohio’s agricultural season. Over recent months I had driven all around Ohio, but typically every week or two, which turned out to create an odd, strobe-like effect when it came to crops like corn. You’d go out one time, and see seedlings, then the next time young stalks and before you really had a chance to adjust, you were seeing corn in its full growth. The effect could be jarring, like seeing a child after an absence of a couple of years, missing the interim of wild growth. Watching in this fashion the 2013 crop come in created a sense of acceleration of time for me, like things were moving too quickly. Of course, we experience that in our own lives, too.
In which our intrepid hero encounters some bad noose…
This year I “celebrate” my 20th year of studying extremists in the United States, something that began as a completely unplanned and odd little outgrowth of my dissertation (which had nothing to do with extremism or, for that matter, the 20th century). By January 1995, I was spending a lot of time looking at domestic extremists and the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing essentially changed my life forever, causing me to focus on extremism and terrorism, first voluntarily and soon professionally. I’ve done that ever since. But my very first encounter with extremism occurred decades earlier, when I was a child.
In which our intrepid hero returns to the Rust Belt along the Ohio River…
The city where I grew up, El Paso, Texas, had industry of a sort, but mostly of the resource-processing kind, such as the city’s numerous refineries (oil, copper, etc.). I think the first time I ever encountered America’s stereotypical industrial economy was the first time I visited Cleveland, Ohio, circa 1989. I was driving on one of the Interstates in the metro area and there was a certain point where, if I looked south, all I could see, it seemed, was a vista full of smokestacks belching fumes. That was my welcome to industry. Of course, by then Cleveland had already been a rust belt city for some time, so I could only image what it might have been like in, say, the 1950s. Still, even in the 21st century, Cleveland still operates as an industrial city, both in the old sense (polymers, automobiles, etc.) as well as in the newer sense (information technology, biotechnology, etc.).
In contrast, the cities and towns along the Ohio River have been less able to weather the storm.
In which our intrepid hero puts another notch on his Rust Belt…
When I was a young child, my parents took me to visit a ghost town, the old mining town of Mogollon (of Spanish origin, now pronounced muggy-own) in far west New Mexico in the Gila Mountains. In the 1890s, Mogollon was a happening place, with thousands of residents who were involved, directly or indirectly, in the mining of gold and silver (the same mining that would give nearby Silver City its name). However, by the 1920s, many of the mines had shut down and an exodus followed. By 1930, its population was only around 200. When the last nearby mine shut down in the 1950s, the remnants of its population blew away like dust. When I visited the town, probably circa 1973 or so, it seemed to have been abandoned for a century.
That’s one type of ghost town. But there’s another.
In which our intrepid hero cows some cows…
As I sit here typing on my computer, the weather outside is 11 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course; I do not belong to Al Qaeda). The next few days are going to get much colder. The winter of 2013-2014 so far has been a pretty darn cold one for Ohio. That arctic quality is only enhanced when I look at the photographs in this blog entry, which were taken last July 13 on a gloriously sunny summer’s day. As an obese person, I tend to prefer extremes of cold over extremes of heat (you can always put on another layer, but you can only get so naked), but I am not much for extremes of any sort. Although I can put up with cold weather, I really am a weather wimp. I would be much happier if the temperature always stayed between 69 and 72 degrees.
In which our intrepid hero rejects Cary Grant and goes south by southwest…
For the past 18 years I have had to travel quite a bit for work, typically training law enforcement officers, prosecutors or judges in some part of the country (or, rarely, abroad). These travels have taken me to 46 of the 50 states and, were it not for incidents such as breaking an ankle, I would have visited 49 of the 50 states by now. Because of those facts, many people think that I get to see far more than I get to see. “Wow,” is a typical comment, “You’ve really seen every corner of the country.” But this is work travel, not vacation travel. It turns out that the Jackson, Mississippi, airport looks a lot like many other airports and the Hilton hotel conference center in Yellow Snow, North Dakota, is amazingly similar to the Marriott hotel conference center in Asscrack, Alabama. I’ve been to Arizona many times, for example. Have I ever seen the Grand Canyon? Not on your life. Moreover, when I travel for work I am not even of the mindset that wants to go do a touristy thing. My overwhelming desire is to get in, do what I need to do, and get back home.