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Michael Martone's "Country Roads Lined with Running Fences"

Updated on June 19, 2013

Responding to Michael Martone's "Country Roads Lined with Running Fences"

Michael Martone calls to our attention the poignant fact of the “current disappearance of fences and fencerows”. While I agree with him that there is a noticeable change in the Midwestern landscape and horizon, I do not believe that it is an ultimate symbol of how times have changed. Michael Martone has inspired me to ponder what I consider to be most representative of this area. The landscape has certainly changed. There are far fewer wild flowers than once blossomed along the roadside. Children are no longer able to wildly roam their neighborhoods. Times have changed. Parents are now forced to worry about licentious predators, rather than just skinned knees and childish tussles. However, I would deem a small Midwestern town’s downtown as the greatest visual testimony to the Midwest’s fallen era.

Now-a-days when an individual passes through the downtown of a small city the atmosphere is harsh. Adults bustle here and there. They are trying to rush through their lunch breaks and return to their workplace within a short period of time. Most people are business-like, but there are those who wander the streets peacefully enjoying their day. However, for the most part everyone is in a hurry. Back in the good ol’ days everyone was able to kick back and relax in the downtown. It was a place full of businesses, but also a place where people could meet to converse and enjoy one another’s company. A few decades ago a city’s downtown was a place that everyone frequented. Adults, adolescents, and children were all able to find things to do in their city’s center. From the ice cream shop to the movie theater children and teenagers were able to find ways to spend their time. Children used to be free to wander a downtown unattended by adults. This is no longer the case.

Downtowns used to be the heart of a Midwestern small town. Now they are the decaying remnants of the past. Some cities try to repair and restore their downtowns. Others demolish the old buildings and the history that accompanied them. However, there are a few towns out there that still maintain life in their old downtowns. They may not be new and shiny, but they are worn and memorable. They whisper of an era that has long since passed, but people desperately hold to. A simpler time when people didn’t have to keep constant watch over their children. A time when people’s lives were not about hurrying to and fro. A time when people were able to stop, relax, and enjoy the world and people around them.


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