From: truthout
Published July 1, 2008 11:42 AM

High Gas Prices Threaten to Drain Small Towns' Populations

Leeton, Missouri - In this small town south of Warrensburg, directions usually begin with, "From Casey's, you go ..."

That would be Casey's General Store, the only gas station in town. It's where folks fill up while talking about goings-on, politics, weather and who's got the best-looking tomatoes.


 These days, they're also cussing and shaking their heads about the price of that gasoline. People are doing that everywhere, but in small towns such as Leeton, population 619, it's even more of a gut punch because nearly every working adult commutes to jobs elsewhere.

    These days, there had better be a really good job on the other end of that trip.

    Don Campbell's daily commute to Kansas City - about 100 miles each way - costs him roughly $866 a month at $3.90 per gallon. But he's a union iron worker and says he can make the math work.

    Most of his neighbors can't. For them and thousands of other small-town residents across the country who drive long distances to jobs that pay little more than minimum wage, the high cost of gas is making that daily commute cost-prohibitive.

    So much so that economists predict that over the next few years, the country could see a migration that would greatly reduce the population of Small Town America - resulting in a painful shift away from lifestyle, family roots, traditions and school ties.

    "This town's the only place I know," said Louie Rector, who drives 35 miles to his job at a window factory from his home in tiny Dixon, Mo., about 20 miles west of Rolla.

    "I grew up here ... raised my kids here. I got my family and friends all here. I don't want to pack up and leave. But it's getting to the point where a fella can't afford to drive to work, and that don't seem right to me."

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