Friday, August 19, 2011

Culture Shock in Pennsylvania

I received the funniest phone call first thing this morning. A big booming voice that sounded like Lyndon B. Johnson was calling to let me know his people would be on our land today doing seismic testing for the gas drilling company. Like most Texans he was loud and friendly, and I was flustered because I kept thinking of LBJ.

We've had to get used to Texas accents and Texas manners around here in the past few years since we live atop the Marcellus Shale, the biggest concentration of natural gas discovered in this country in ages.

Since this is a rural area, we're used to nearly everyone having a pickup truck, but now we're overwhelmed with them. The motels, rooming houses, and furnished apartments are now full, and the license plates on the pickups in the parking lots are from Texas, Oklahoma, and places like Oregon and Washington. A few of the men have brought their wives, but mostly we're overrun with single men who fill the restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores. It's good business, and it can be amusing when a couple guys are in the grocery store trying to decide what they can cook.

This has also been a boon for employment. The local community colleges are offering courses for jobs in the gas industry and I expect it won't be long before most of the jobs will be filled by local people. Bluestone quarries had provided employment to many young strong men but then the boom in bluestone was over and unemployment went up again. Suddenly now there are new opportunities, but they do require some training.

The "pads" they construct for drilling rigs are a marvel. One huge pad is just down the road from our house and we will hear lots of noise and see the lights 24 hours a day when they begin drilling, but the landowners will profit big time. Our economy has been in the pits for so long, we aren't upset about the noise, the traffic, or even the damage to our roads - yet. Someday we may regret all this, but for now there's a lot of hope in this area that things are going to get better.

Speaking of traffic, when we moved here 17 years ago there might be a dozen vehicles go by for a whole day, and night time was quiet as a tomb. Now you'd think we live on a highway we have so much traffic, and it's fast. No more rural carelessness about crossing the road here.

The hope for a better economy is especially true for senior citizens like Dave and me. We started out 36 years ago in an 18 foot camper in a campground. We worked hard and worked up until now we have 26+ acres of gorgeous land, a house built in 1861, outbuildings, two ponds, hay fields, and a beautiful view. But here we are in our 70s, both with chronic diseases and hence expensive medications to buy, and an iffy future. Do we want gas royalty checks? You bet we do.

Drilling for natural gas is a controversial process and some people claim their water has been polluted, but there was a problem with their water for 50 years or more so we aren't really concerned. You'll see all kinds of scare stories about the dangers of hydrofracturing to get the shale oil, but we've done our research and we don't see the danger. We're not blind, just not easily frightened.

Meanwhile, the excitement is building in our part of the county and we're getting friendly calls from LBJ; oops, I mean Texans.


  1. Wow - here in Nova Scotia, the controversy over fracking has been hot for the past year. NOBODY seems to want it, and I'm not so sure I would either, especially just down the road.

    I'm glad that you're reconciled to it and there are benefits for you that outweigh any negatives to your lifestyle.:-)

  2. Barbara, just a quick comment, Laurie (Laloofah) has left a message for you in the comments section of my blog (Thursday Challenge post). As she's also from the US I asked her if she had any ideas ref the cats.

  3. Debbie, It is risky, but them what isn't? So far it has been good for this part of our county.

    Barbara, Thank you very much for directing me to Laurie's comment. I'm going to look into the resources she suggested. She calls me Barbara II which makes me feel like royalty. :D

  4. How interesting about the southern invasion! I had no idea!

  5. I'm not familiar with the process you are talking about but I understand the need for a way to improve the economy and the need for natural gas. I also get why extra checks in your 70s is such an exciting proposition. Sure hope it works for you.

  6. Jill and Margot, This has been a huge change in our rural county but we definitely need a boost to our economy. Dairy farms, bluestone quarries, and commuting long distances to jobs used to be our only hope. I myself commuted 25 miles each way to a job in NY State. Everything else was low paying hamburger-flipping kind of work. Now we have hope for the future, but it does cause an uproar.