Saturday, March 9, 2013
Spring draws near
We’ve a chance of rain. But we’ve had chances before and few have materialized of late. I hate to use the dreaded d-word, but that’s the way it feels. Not to say we have no moisture, just that the combination of warm, dry weather, wind, and a lack of rain have taken a toll and I’m uneasy about prospects for the upcoming crop.
I’ve opted to plant milo instead of corn on the few acres we will dedicate to grain; milo is more drought resistant; the seed costs less, is a non-GMO product and the fodder can be harvested for hay. An additional benefit: I won’t need to buy crop insurance, an endeavor I have grown to hate.
I kept seasonal help acquired during pecan harvest last year and the weight of carrying them through the winter has taken its toll on our bank account. Prospects for employment elsewhere for these men are poor, despite the boom in the nearby Eagle Ford shale play.
The big dollars required to develop the oil field comes from somewhere else; I suspect sources very near the Federal Reserve money-making machine; the oil produced leaves on rail cars and through recently installed pipe lines and the money generated returns from whence it came. Those fortunate few who live atop land bearing oil and owning mineral rights are getting rich, but most of that money fails to recirculate into the local economy.
Modern day shanty towns have sprung up in the area, only now instead of tents, residents live in travel trailers, stacked as closely together as space will allow. Most inhabitants are men, but there are some families. I feel sorry for the kids and the wives as few of these “parks” provide anything in the way of common space or recreational areas. Despite talk of good pay in the oil field, most of these workers are poor, living from one pay check to the next. I’d bet many have a home and a mortgage elsewhere, or conversely, are burdened with debt from a previous life that consumes every extra dollar they earn.
Hotels do well; none of these are owned by locals. Wal-Mart and McDonalds are having a field day. Taco venders, flat tire fixers and a few local men with good driving records and without drug habits are making a living. Gas stations and grocery stores thrive and local cops feast on an ample supply of overweight and illegal trucks.
We’ve had numerous accidents and fiery crashes related to oil field traffic. The wear on the roads is visible and it’s quite a bit more difficult the get in and out of parking lots.
We don’t have much in the way of bars and whorehouses, but I suspect the nearby cities of San Antonio and Austin are providing those needs. With all the drug-testing surrounding oil field jobs, local drug dealers haven’t shared in the current boom cycle like those of times past. I am sure whoever has the local beer and ice contracts are happy, nonetheless.
I hear the stock market is at an all time high, but I also see data pointing to a greater disparity in income than ever before. I hear politicians refer to a middle class. No one I know in this supposed middle class owns any stocks. If current trends continue, I doubt that such a thing as a middle class will survive. We will have rich, various levels of working poor and the outright destitute.
The climate ripens for political conflict between regions and classes of people in our land. I hope this conflict remains constrained to the political arena, but I see possibilities for it to escape those boundaries.
I pity the poor soul tasked with taking guns away from my neighbors. It ain’t gonna happen without a fight, a fight that potentially could pit state, local and federal forces against each other.
If you don’t believe me, then read this recently published article from our local newspaper.
Is this so much hot air? We shall see, soon, I suspect.