Excerpts from Sam’s Branch Essays, a book I am working on:
Progressland all looks alike. It is four lane highways that have destroyed small business in small-town America. There are trashy stretches of fast food joints and filling stations on all sides of every little town. The little main streets are boarded up and wasting away. People in the country are locking their houses now that the four-lanes bring criminals right to their doors—- A man drove on Interstate Highway 64 from Virginia almost all the way across West Virginia, took a random exit and drove into a random driveway, knocked on the door and shot the woman who answered the knock.
A campus guard at Emory and Henry University in western Virginia told me she was armed because Interstate 81 runs right past the campus. And an author and doctor in Johnstown, Tennessee writes that interstate highways are a conduit that brings AIDS from the metropolitan areas to more rural communities by way of truck drivers and local truck stop male and female prostitutes. The interstate highways are also conduits for invasive exotic plant species and plant diseases.
More on Progressland and development: When coming into West Virginia from Ohio on Interstate 77 cross the lovely Ohio River into Wild Wonderful West Virginia, do you see beautiful tree-filled mountains? Nope, you see giant billboards covering what are probably beautiful mountains. Of course they are notifications that can’t wait. Instead of looking at those pesky mountains, McDonalds and their ilk let you know immediately where you can find quaint Appalachian hamburgers. It is the same on the Virginia border coming into West Virginia from the south. McDonalds gets you on both ends. Who needs mountains when you can come to West Virginia for hamburgers? The song will have to be changed from “Those Beautiful West Virginia Hills” to “Those beautiful West Virginia hamburgers”, and don’t forget the cappuccino. Pretty soon all our mountains will be either strip-mined or covered with billboards or both.