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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Home Sweet Home: Stayin' or Leavin'?

Note: I wrote this blog a few years ago and am reposting since journalists have recently questioned as to why anyone would want to live in this area of Alabama, specifically Wilcox County, but hey, that is right next door to Dallas County!

SOME OF MY TRANSPLANTED FRIENDS FROM THE NORTH have remarked more than once that young adults of the rural South, especially Alabama, don’t want to leave home.

Apparently, our high school graduates mostly think alike: Go off to a state college, then return to where they came from…or close to where they came from. 

I guess sometimes it takes “outside” observation to reveal trends that longtime homefolks don’t find unusual or maybe never even thought about. 

This "phenomenon” wasn’t exactly at the top of my cultural events list,  but once they mentioned it, I recalled one of my sons saying in high school that he didn’t plan to date until he finished college and headed out West.  

“Why on earth?” I think I asked.

“Because most of the girls around here want to stay around here, and I don’t want to have to stay around here forever,” he explained. 

And yes, my friends noted that this “Sweet Home Alabama” trend is especially true of girls.

Well, they have a point.

Females of the Piney Woods and Black Belt are just as comfortable in creeks and rivers and on four-wheelers and deer stands as they are in antebellum gowns at the historic homes Pilgrimage.

Their mamas or grandmamas still bake cornbread without sugar, and they are never far from a vacation at the mountains or beach. 

So, who wouldn’t want to immerse themselves in such surroundings for the rest of their lives?

In some other regions and especially in cities, children are expected to take the most lucrative job offer wherever it may be, even if that means frigid Fargo or windy Chicago! Then, they’re groomed to stay mobile and move halfway around the world if that’s what it takes to advance.

However, while the theory of our progeny loving their land to the point of perpetual homesickness sure seems plausible, it just doesn’t compute.

A 7th District congressional candidate once remarked on local radio that despite a wealth of natural resources, “We’re losing our children to other states.”

And I noticed online where the Small Business Administration compiled  research that shows more “brain drain”  across rural America, especially the South, particularly Alabama and even more specifically the Black Belt, than in most cities.

It’s the metropolitan centers that attract and keep our professionally trained kids. While our farm-grown  and small-town raised children still love home, they’re moving to   Atlanta, Memphis and Nashville, and some even venture to ...well…Chicago! 

Still, I can’t help but agree with my northern sistas’ keen revelation. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to the contrary. My boy, who vowed to remain unattached until on his own and out of state, started dating anyway, and our state’s job market suddenly had much stronger appeal! 

Besides, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Alabama leads the nation for its drop in unemployment. 

So, I guess it won’t be long before we’ll know:
 Will he stay or will he go?

He went! 

South instead of West. 

For more on this subject, please visit my friend and former co-worker Jackie Walburn's latest blog post, "Wilcox County: Why on Earth People Live There."  

I addressed similar issues in yet another column by John Archibald of in my post, "What's Hot and What's Not, or Dare to Defend Our Town" in February 2013. 

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