Last Sunday I was with Mark, the boys and my brother, Adam, hitting the road after a great weekend trip to West Virginia. The guys had a night in Pittsburgh, PA for our cousin’s bachelor party. I had helped with a bridal shower for his betrothed and the boys tagged along with me and camped out at my Dads for the night. All in all, a nice adventure. Having Adam fly in from Nashville to be a part of it was icing on the cake. (Bree! Ahhh move here please! Sorry, no pressure. Lol)
When my son Landon insisted our lunch for the ride home not consist of food in a bag – he’s really starting to be aware of fast food ickies – we decided to stop and grab some Subway in Warwood after saying bye to Pap Noil and Grandma Viv.
When driving through Warwood, the open field near the old swimming pool had families and strangely enough, some clothes lines strung up between trees with sheets and blankets over them.
We pulled into the plaza and instantly two things happened. First, I realized there was also a band playing – country folksy type- and not too bad actually. Second, right next to the Subway entry was a coffee shop entry in the strip of stores. Adam, really wanting his coffee he missed this AM (Couldn’t find fresh brewed coffee in Wellsburg for anything) entered his coffee door and was ready to gamble on “The Warwood Coffee Bean” quality. I entered the Subway door.
As soon as we both walked in, we realized there was no wall between us and we were taken aback as we waved at each other and laughed. Second, the nice Subway sandwich artist smoking a cigarette on the picnic table outside between the two doors with a double cherry neck tattoo came back in and over to Adam’s side of the businesses as he asked about coffee.
“No coffee here,” she stated matter of factly. Turns out it was ice cream and DiCarlos pizza, neither of which would be open or available until after 3 pm.
Why the front of the store was clearly a coffee shop, and open for entry, is beyond our understanding.
He easily left the pizza-ice cream parlor and joined me at Subway.
We were greeted by a younger girl, I’d say 21 at best.
A little rough around the edges, she was cute and talkative none the less. She asked us what we thought about all the fracking.
Feeling this was a random question at a sandwich place, she clarified that the demonstration against it was the event in the park right now.
OH! Now we got it.
Backstory: Fracking began in the tri-state Ohio area maybe 2 years or so ago. The area was quite impoverished to begin with since the steel mills all closed up and not many businesses moved in. Today, all the empty and abandoned industry lots around route 2 up and down the Ohio river are common for water truck storage, refill stations and many RVs for all the workers who’ve been sent in to live from.
So what is “fracking”? Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.
RVs moving in aren’t enough. There are so many transient workers now in the area that any hotels and rentals are now a full premium. Top dollar is being paid not only if you have land and utilities to support more RV’s coming in, but if you have extra rooms too. What’s really unbelievable, is if you have land that is deemed “frackable” – you’ll get thousands – and I mean thousands- per acre to let them frack it.
Back to the girl at Subway. I told her I didn’t have enough facts to know what I think about fracking. I just hope that these people coming in don’t destroy the health of everyone or find out it’s bad for the water supply (as they show here).
The cherry lady agreed. What she added that made her mad was they bring in outside people and gave them all the jobs. She said they won’t hire people who live here because they can’t pass drug tests or have jail records. (I assume it’s because they don’t want them to know what the process is?)
I added if that were true, a drug test and background check would work. She agreed whole heartedly. She said they all come here and get all the money and leave. The girl then added that her boyfriend has a CDL and he can’t get a job anywhere and now cause of these people they can’t afford a place to live. (Water trucks are everywhere – running 24/7/365) She said they wanted a house in Beech Bottom to rent but they wanted $800 a month and how could anyone afford to ever get a house because all those frackers will pay tons of money to get them all.
Touché Subway girl.
What an eye opener. They won’t offer jobs locally to anyone and then they drive up the housing market because the demand for this new population is so high. What does that do for the citizens of the area?
If you have actual land on property you own, it’s a good thing. Since Beech Bottom is my hometown and where my grandparents still live, I will use this small village 5 miles from this Subway as an example.
Here’s a breakdown.
The population of Beech Bottom, WV is 523.
The city’s residents are 47.8% males and 52.2% females.
The city’s population is 4.2% college educated and 79.0% have a high school diploma or a GED.
37.0% of the city’s population is married. The other 63.0% are single.
The Beech Bottom, WV poverty rate of 16.4% is higher than the national average.
The median worker income in Beech Bottom, WV is $19,063.
At the time of the last census, the Beech Bottom, WV unemployment rate was 7.6%.
So nearly 1/3 of the people who do have a job drive more than 45 minutes away for work. Only 4.2% have a degree and the average income is under $20k – which is nearly $10,000 below the national average.
And rent is now $800 a month for a little cottage home that is more than likely still bearing 80’s décor and prior to fracking would be valued at about $30-35,000. She is hopeful though. Her uncle is letting them use an old dilapidated trailer that needs a lot of work until they can find something affordable. She mentioned it has electric. Someday she hopes to be in Beech Bottom.
Is fracking wiping out what middle class there could have been? Property owners can earn nearly $250k annually for usage of about 50 acres (give or take estimate) and some families, like one I know of personally, were offered just over seven figures to sell their land and the small, dated house sitting on it to the company drilling.
How sad for my home town area. There are drug problems and abuse and I know the underpaid social workers have doubled case loads and turnover is so high that many kids just don’t get help or services.
I know I don’t judge people for a lack of college degree. That’s a whole different blog post and analysis on it’s own with personal reflection. But just the overall lack of education tied in with poverty and this is a natural cause and effect scenario. My problem is why? Why does this happen right here, right now in this country?
Words can’t describe the conditions and this is only one isolated example, and one village. Every town has their “sections” this just happens to be the entire place with exceptions here and there. When you find these pockets of poverty in a city, you usually find generational lines of poorly educated people who get by and see struggle as the norm. And more times than not, if they haven’t diminished their spirits with drugs and alcohol, they still have a true understanding for family, loyalty and happiness. That is the hope i saw with the lovely girl in Subway. Hope, anyway. Try, anyway. Keep dreams alive.
I cut and pasted this out of an article last week:
“The regime has pursued the development of nuclear weapons while millions of its subjects have been left impoverished and malnourished” – CNN article about North Korea 9/9/2013
I feel like we do the same thing. Is our country the cobbler’s shoes? Imagine if we focused on education for everyone and taking care of our own soil.
I have a very intelligent, talented and educated cousin. Psychology degree. Burned out social worker turned prison guard turned one-hour-each-way coal miner traveling 9 miles into the center of the earth six days a week, ten hours a day so he can try to support his family better and get out of the area one day. How does that happen? It’s not right.
What’s my take away from this? I don’t know. It’s too big for me to grasp. People have faucets that when turned on near a flame can catch fire because of all the leaking methane gas in water supplies.
Housing costs keep rising at record levels but no jobs or pay increase. Don’t even get me started on the poor health care “hospitals” in that specific area. Just pray no one there ever gets sick, hurt or in an accident.
What positive I did get from this? The smiles and service at Subway. And Adam’s drive away comment:
“I will always remember that no matter how stressful or bad I think something is, I know there is a girl working at Subway in Warwood, WV, that dreams to someday get a house in Beech Bottom. “
You are so right Adam. We can’t take anything for granted and be thankful for what we are privileged to have. Well said my brother. Well said.
What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear it.