Last week, I opined about the high risk of fire danger this fall; and, asked residents to work with their visitors and hunters to stress the need for caution through the upcoming hunting seasons.This tough hunting season is only more element in the tough situations that have already faced Mason County residents. With A&M scientists predicting that the current drought situation is only in its early stages, a condition that could last for many more years, we will face tough choices and tough situations for quite some time.I've talked to many of our older residents who remember some tough times. They remember the Depression of the 1930s and the drought of the 1950s. They had some interesting observations on what those events did to Mason residents, and how we survived. During the 1930s, most of Mason County was still very rural. The residents lived on the farms and ranches scattered all over the county. Very few people in Mason County had investments affected by the stock market crash, very few residents worked for large national companies, and very few had ever known anything but hard work and struggle.Through the 1930s on up to World War II, Mason County residents took advantage of their ability to raise much of the meat and produce they needed to scrape by and to help their neighbors. Though money was in short supply, Mason County had the cattle, sheep, goats, hogs and agricultural crops that they needed for their own survival, and they were able to produce enough sell the extra and make some cash to buy their additional needs.World War II was the defining event in ending the Depression. After serving their country, the first major changes in Mason County residents was the realization that opportunities might exist beyond the county. The skills they had learned during military service opened up new doors for Mason's sons and daughters, and many chose to remain in the cities and provide greater economic possibilities for their families.And then came the drought.The 1950s drought would completely redefine the makeup of the county. As the severity of the dry conditions increased, residents were unable to count on the personal livestock and produce that had gotten them through the Depression. With options for survival limited, people left the farms and ranches. They began moving away from the small towns that dotted the countryside, moving first to Mason, and then to other towns and other states. Some would return when the drought finally ended. Many did not.When the 60s and 70s rolled around, many small towns had disappeared from Mason County, remembered only by older residents. By the 80s and 90s and into the new millennium, only a few rural post offices remained, and the number of active farms and ranches were already on the decline.Now, a decade into this new era, many large ranches have disappeared, split into smaller acreage. Farms have begun to fade from the landscape as the profitability of agriculture falls. Residents inherit from their parents and relatives, and no longer feel compelled to stay on the land, or to even keep the property. Speculators offer money for the wind, for the water and for the soil. At a time when there appear to be very few options, the idea of large cash payouts with very little work are an attractive option.So, in the next decade, how many of the small towns will remain in Mason County? For that matter, how many people will choose to stay and struggle from day to day just to make a living?This is another of the turning points in Mason County. The actions we take now will determine how we look in the next decade. I wonder if we'll be able to recognize ourselves once this finally ends.
It’s all just my opinion.