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From My Window

Issue Date: May 24, 2018

Country Gentrification

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



Gentrification is a term for the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, a related increase in rents and property values, and changes in the district's character and culture. The term is often used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor, often inner-city communities by rich outsiders.

Gentrification also happens when people who formerly lived in a city, or a typical suburban neighborhood relocate "out to the country." The culture of country people is different than the culture of city people " not better or worse, just different.

When my husband and I moved to our Oklahoma home 18 years ago, it was located in the middle of large cattle ranges, mixed in with some simple single-occupant homes. The area is about five miles from the nearest city, and still had a distinctly rural look and feel. However, a shift to larger, more expensive homes, many with expansive associated horse facilities, was already underway.


During our time here, the "suburbanization" of land has spread outward from three local cities, "bedroom communities" for Tulsa, toward us at astonishing speed. There are large "community developments," with extreme density of large homes on tiny lots within a mile and a half of us. Cattle range land you can see from our yard has changed hands recently, at eye-popping prices, with rumors of future high-density housing accompanying each sale. We have already sold our home here, so the prospect of our neighborhood becoming surrounded by high-density development will not impact us. It is however, interesting to watch and listen to what happens when people move from more urban environments into what was formerly undeveloped land outside city limits. My window into this culture clash is conversations with neighbors and a locale-specific Facebook site used by our community.

Please know that in sharing my observations, I am not disparaging the newcomers. They are in an environment which is different from what they are used to; they are the same mix of mostly-good people you find anywhere " they just have a different "culture." It would be no different for a life-long country dweller moving to a large city.

" Animal poop: city dwellers expect dogs to be "curbed" or picked up after. Country dogs relieve themselves any place that nature calls. It is surprising to rural people who allow their dogs to roam (something I certainly don't encourage,) to get a call complaining about their dog pooping in someone else's yard. I have a relative who experienced a neighbor's complaint because while riding their horse in the ditch in their mostly-rural community it went to the bathroom in the long grass across the road from someone's yard.

" Livestock behavior: I was very entertained by a sign erected in the pasture of a small ranch surrounded by subdivisions. The pasture was the home of three grey horses who enjoyed lying down in the sun. Apparently so many people called or stopped in at the ranch house to report the horses were dead, that it was necessary for the homeowner to put up the sign "Horses get tired, and they lie down to rest. They are not dead." Yes, this really did happen.

" Wild animals: On the local Facebook there are many comments posted about the local coyotes and bobcats from new arrivals. Developments take over land formerly utilized by this and other wildlife, but they are such smart adaptable animals that they quickly learn to utilize the new food sources offered by developed neighborhoods. They love food set out for outside pets; they rifle trash; hunt rabbits that thrive in subdivisions; and coyotes even eat produce in gardens. They will also kill small dogs and cats, but it is not clear if they view pets as rivals for food and territory or if they see them as a food source, much like coyotes will kill or drive foxes out of their territory and wolves kill coyotes. But scientific study of the "scat" or droppings of "urban coyotes" reveal very few dog and cat remains " primary food sources are small mammals such as rats, mice and rabbits. For many reasons related to their safety, cats and dogs should not roam. But coyotes do not attack and kill humans " there are less than five recorded instances between Canada and the U.S. of such a thing happening. So while a trapped, cornered or sick bobcat or coyote may bite, your chances of dying from a tornado, lightning strike, texting driver or especially a gunshot are much higher. There is no need to panic, as some do, about their child walking to the bus stop if there are small predators in your area. (I'd be much more worried about human predators.) On the other hand, my now-retired horse vet, a crusty Oklahoma native, used to marvel to me that people in the subdivision that had crept up to his ranch were FEEDING the coyotes so they could watch them. He was totally astonished that anyone would be interested in observing a coyote without immediately killing it.

" Guns: In a city, gunshots are good reason for immediate concern. In the country, occasional gunshots are normal "background" noise. There are alarmed on-line posts about hearing gunshots every few days on the neighborhood Facebook site " sometimes with a comment that the Sheriff's department was notified. I bet some of the local old-timers would be astonished to know their normal shooting activities are scaring their new neighbors, but they are.

I believe that when we drive by our "old house" here in ten years we will find it a small island left in a sea of developments " which will make me sad. But our new home site is pretty private, and I suspect any gentrification there is decades off. I will be welcoming my new animal neighbors the bears, coyotes and bobcats in Wisconsin " because the same creator who made me, made them, for a reason. And it will be up to me to learn what the culture of my new animal and human neighborhood is, and adapt to it; not expect them to adapt to me and my nutty Oklahoma ideas.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.




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