I’ve always been intrigued by the stories of those folks who live in tiny, rural communities — Who are these people? What do they do? Where do they work? What’s an average day-in-the-life like?
My curiosity has deepened thanks to my gig here at Arizona Highways… you see, one of the perks of the job is that I get to travel around our amazing state.
Along the way, I’ll sometimes pass through a middle-of-nowhere outpost… I usually want to stop the car, get out and wander for a bit. Sometimes I’ll take that moment… I did that recently when I passed through Quartzsite.
Occasionally, a stop-over can turn out to be very fruitful, like when my colleague (and sometimes partner-in-crime-slash-fellow-jerky-girl), Managing Editor Kelly Kramer and I (I, being Kathy Ritchie the Associate Editor in this outfit) stumbled upon Daniel’s Really Good Fresh Jerky in Parker, AZ.
Whoda thunk it? Really good jerky in Parker.
Unfortunately, rural America is shrinking fast. And rural Arizona is certainly no exception. The 2010 Census Report shows that places like Parker, Bisbee and Tombstone have lost a good chunk of their populations.
- The town of Hayden shrank 26 percent, dropping to 662 people in the past decade.
- The Sun Valley area in Gila County dropped 79 percent, to 316 residents.
- Parker dropped 2 percent. Superior fell 13 percent.
- Tombstone and Bisbee each lost 8 percent of their populations.
According to Mark Mather, Associate Vice President of the Population Reference Bureau, a research group in Washington, D.C, “many rural areas can’t attract workers because there aren’t any jobs, and businesses won’t relocate there because there aren’t enough qualified workers. So, they are caught in a downward spiral.”
Here’s another interesting tidbit, as some rural areas simply wither away, metropolitan areas are ever expanding and exploding… In fact, according to the report, of the 10 fastest-growing places, all were small cities incorporated into the suburbs of expanding metro areas, mostly in California, Arizona and Texas.
But let’s face it… many of the off-the-beaten-path-hamlets in Arizona are not going to be absorbed by the bright-lights-big-city.
That means a day will come when many these places will simply cease to be much of anything at all… maybe some will be resurrected or maybe some will fall off the map completely.
I don’t know how or even if we can save some of these rural outposts, but what I can suggest is that the next time you drive through a Parker or Superior, get out and walk around.
You never know what you might find.
~KAT, Associate Editor