Skip to main content

It's a promise, a mythology, a rite of passage --

The belief that "Abounding Opportunity lies just around the next bend."

Indeed, America was built on such beliefs ... even still today.

Wagons Ho!
Albert Whitman & Company
Independent publisher of children’s books since 1919

Plot Summary

Two girls move from Missouri to Oregon--one in 1846 and one in 2011. One trip takes five months and the other five days. One trip is in a covered wagon, the other in a car. But both girls will miss their old homes and worry about the long trip. Both girls stop at well-known landmarks and travel the Rocky Mountains. And as each girl reaches her new home, she finds her new room, and her new friends. Wagons Ho! is a unique look at both history and the concerns all kids have when moving to a new home.

--Sesquicentennial Wagon Train --

I've made that journey, twice in my endless search for work. Once to California. Once to Oregon.  (with a stint back to the Midwest, in between.)

It is a scary, enthralling time --- when one dares to cast their Fate to the Winds.

Sometimes it works out.  Sometimes it doesn't.

And sometimes when 'the Opportunities' run out -- you are left with no other choice but to ...

-- Go where 'the Opportunities' are -- or as the saying went back in the day:  

"Go West young man, ... your dreams await you there ..."

Moving around to find work during the Depression: Cleveland Remembers -- August 02, 2011

I was born during the Depression and my father had a hard time supporting us. We moved from Elyria, where all the family lived, to Cleveland where he was promised a job. It didn't last long, but he was able to get part time work fixing roads with the WPA. He also had an occasional job picking up dead bodies for a local funeral home.

When money was really tight, my mother and I moved back to live with my grandparents in Elyria. [...]

[The Works Progress Administration did construction work around the country during the Great Depression.]

Sometimes your Dreams can turn into Nightmares ...

Soon or later the wells of Opportunity run dry.  And then far too many of us are poorly equipped to find -- new wells ...

If only there were a road map ... that shows the way out Poverty-ville ....

Social mobility

Social mobility refers to the movement of people in a population from one social class or economic level to another.[1]  It typically refers to vertical mobility -- movement of individuals or groups up (or down) from one socio-economic level to another, often by changing jobs or marrying; but can also refer to horizontal mobility -- movement from one position to another within the same social level. [...]

Mobility is enabled to a varying extent by economic capital, cultural capital (such as higher education), human capital (such as competence and effort in labour), social capital (such as support from one's social network), physical capital (such as ownership of tools, or the 'means of production'), and symbolic capital (such as the worth of an official title, status class, celebrity, etc.).

The American Dream Report, a study of the Economic Mobility Project, found that Americans surveyed were more likely than citizens of other countries to agree with statements like

    -- “People get rewarded for intelligence and skill”,

    -- “People get rewarded for their efforts”;


However it also found that "about half" (47%) of the advantages of having a parent with a high income were passed on to the next generation" in the United States. Compared to eight other developed countries studied, (United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, UK), only the United Kingdom had a higher rate of "passing advantages" to their offspring than the United States.[9][10]  The Economist also stated that "evidence from social scientists suggests that American society is much 'stickier' than most Americans assume. Some researchers claim that social mobility is actually declining."[11]


Popular examples of upward social mobility from America include Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton, who were born into working-class families yet achieved high political office in adult life, and Andrew Carnegie, who arrived in the U.S. as a poor immigrant and later became a steel tycoon.

So, it CAN be done. A person with enough determination and luck can find upward mobility ... they can change the die that's been cast for them ...

John Thatcher to his young son: "Change your stars and live a better life than I have."
-- A Knight's Tale

I started out poor in life.  I am no longer poor ... after several decades of endless toil.

Today, I find that  now "I am an old man, filled with regrets ..."
as the storyline goes.

A soul-weary worker still looking for that next undiscovered valley, where the work is Easy and the Opportunities are plentiful ... where peace and security abound.

Some say it still exists ... somewhere out there ...

Where to Find Bakken Oil Jobs -- 50,000% Increase in North Dakota Jobs 2010-2011
by Patty Inglish, MS,

Oil On the Reservation

New Town is a small town in northwestern North Dakota over 380 miles west of the state's fastest growing place, the City of Fargo. Despite it's small size to 2010, the job listings in and around New Town jumped an incredible 746% from June 2008 to January 1, 2010. The local Native American reservation already had some oil wells, but then an Oil Boom struck on the Fort Berthold Reservation that includes the New Town area. [...]

Every Boom has its dark side though.

Not everyone is quick enough, or strong enough, or brave enough ...

to catch the Tiger by the Tail ...

North Dakota Oil Boom Raises Rents, Pushing Seniors Out
by Associated Press, on WashingtonPost -- Nov 14, 2011
by James MacPherson, -- 11/14/2011

WILLISTON, N.D. — After living all of her 82 years in the same community, Lois Sinness left her hometown this month, crying and towing a U-Haul packed with her every possession.

She didn’t want to go, but the rent on her $700-a-month apartment was going up almost threefold [$2000] because of heightened demand for housing generated by North Dakota’s oil bonanza. Other seniors in her complex and across the western part of the state are in the same predicament.

Grandma can’t go to work in the oil fields and make a 150 grand a year,” said A.J. Mock, director of the Williston Council for the Aging. Many of the seniors who are moving out “have lived here their entire lives and wanted to live here until they die.”


Social Mobility is one way out of Poverty -- it should not be the only way.

Far too many of us, simply just cannot pull up stakes -- and Go West.

Far too many of us, are simply just not that Mobile -- we have roots holding us back.

And rightfully so ...  "There is more to life, than just money."  ... as another storyline goes ...

Moving to find work is unrealistic
Diane Abbott, -- 28 June 2010

The Lib-Con work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has floated the idea that unemployed council tenants should be prepared to move home to find work. The unspoken threat is of coercion. Duncan Smith claims he is trying to help the unemployed. But the truth is that his proposal is cruel, unworkable and refers to a world of work that has gone.

The government is currently slashing public spending, a policy that threatens thousands of jobs. Furthermore, there are over a million jobs in the private sector that are dependent on government contracts. So, at a time when jobs will be harder to get than ever, as a result of the government's own deflationary policies, Duncan Smith proposes that people should go chasing around the country looking for jobs. And, more than likely, these will be jobs that offer no long-term security.

It is also important to point out that the places where there may be job opportunities are frequently the areas with the highest house prices and the steepest rents. [...]

But the underlying problem with Duncan Smith's idea is that he imagines a 1950s world of male heads-of-households, where their women and children will pack up and obediently follow them around the country. The truth is that increasing numbers of households are headed by women. These women often depend on fragile networks of friends and families for childcare and support. It is completely unrealistic to expect them to move in search of work.

As much as some would like to chase the Dream -- it is not always feasible.  They have Responsibilities.  They are Mobility-locked.

Besides, by the time they would "get there" -- the Opportunities would be gone.

Sometimes the pursuit must stop somewhere ...

"... They [Americans back East] were everywhere like locusts and destroyed their enemies with great thundering cannon."
-- Little Crow, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown

Every Boom has its dark side.  Often a whole cascade of them.

One person's Opportunity, is often another person's Heartache.

What happens when they run out of Boom Towns?

What happens when you go West, and you go West, and you finally run into the Ocean?

What then?

Sometimes we need to find those 'new wells' of Opportunity in our own backyards.

And if they are nowhere to be found, then we should work like hell to create them.  To find new niches of Opportunity.  

Because the Grass is not always Greener on the other side. And there is a price to be paid, for pursuing the siren's song.

I know, I've paid it.

"The tumble weed has not a care in the world -- because it has no roots, to hold it in place."
-- jamess, a displaced mid-western worker, forever mired in the land of the dream.


On the plus side, the scenery is nice ... poetic justice, some might call it.

Originally posted to Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:00 PM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    -- Maslow ...... my list.

    by jamess on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 11:39:45 AM PST

  •  And this (8+ / 0-)

    was once my Theme Song:

    The Who -- Going Mobile

    Today my truck, is running in fits and starts,

    needs a new Fuel Pump, I think.

    Stuff always wears out ...

    so sayeth the tumble weed.

    What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    -- Maslow ...... my list.

    by jamess on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 11:43:18 AM PST

    •  Tumbleweeds got expensive! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess, phonegery, Eric Nelson

      My son's friend moved to N Dakota to work on the oil rigs but he's been living in his car for 6 months because he can't afford the rent.

      Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

      by Burned on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:43:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  been there before too (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Burned, Eric Nelson

        calling my camp, home.

        What is a poor working stiff to do?

        best of luck to your son's friend, Burned

        -- they're probably gonna need it.

        What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
        -- Maslow ...... my list.

        by jamess on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:47:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm trying to keep my son here. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          He thinks N Dakota is the place to make it big, despite what his buddy tells him.
          I think he's better off making pizza and having a roof over his head.

          Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

          by Burned on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:50:21 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Hey jamess, nice work as usual. About your truck: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      try checking a fuel filter first, before you consider replacing your pump.
      This is something that is cheap and easy and is often overlooked.

      Good luck with that

      P.S. nice work and a very creative theme for your post too - go west young man :)

  •  More broadly (7+ / 0-)

    Going west, greener pastures, etc., is based on a model of unbounded resources to find and tap.  It's the model that relabels extraction as "production", as if the resources were not there before they were mined, and as if they somehow magically will still be there after they are mined.

    It is an underlying model that shapes how many people make decisions at even an unconscious, unquestioned level.  That model is now invalid, the boundaries have been found.  

    Per the Eagles:

    There is no more new frontier
    We have got to make it here

    We shall not participate in our own destruction.

    by James Wells on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:04:49 PM PST

  •  Wise words Jamess..... (4+ / 0-)

    I certainly wish the administration would develop a stronger stimulus program, including WPA-like work programs within each state to help struggling families as well as repair/build infrastructure.  Willing workers wouldn't have to go too far to re-capture that dream of finding worthwhile work.  My dad worked for the WPA planting trees in northern Michigan and so did my grandpa - helping to build lodges in what are now state and national parks.  They took great pride in what they did - it could work again for our unemployed citizens.

    "George Washington: "The power under the Constitution will always be in the people.... and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can, and undoubtedly will, be recalled." 1787

    by moose67 on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:40:43 PM PST

  •  The next big migration should be going Green! n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, jamess, cany, SanFernandoValleyMom

    "There is nothing new in human affairs. It is only history with ignorance in between." - Harry Truman

    by John Crapper on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:51:45 PM PST

  •  And we wonder (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, cany, Pluto, SanFernandoValleyMom

    why anyone would migrate just because someone has declared it "illegal."  Migration is a well established human behaviour pattern.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:58:32 PM PST

  •  I love your diaries (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, cany, SanFernandoValleyMom

    This is wonderful.

    During the Depression, my working class grandparents and their families did things like leave the kids with relatives for a few years. (and not necessarily kind relatives although I won't go into details). One family lived basically in an illegal shanty (no water, no latrine) for years. People who had had good jobs before.

    Maybe the wealthier members of The Greatest Generation looked back on those times as hard but character building, but not for the working class. They were crushing, grueling, cruel years when families were torn apart, children were neglected. I guess that's what these leaders think people should resort to. Who counts suffering as long as some damn banks get their damn money. (how can any moral, thinking person not find that evil?)

    •  life is crushingly hard (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cany, Pluto, SanFernandoValleyMom

      for those thrown into poverty.

      You are lucky, if it doesn't crush your spirit,

      and you still can keep working hard,

      and keep your sights on, or even see, a pathway out.

      My way out was a tall stack College Loans and Credit Card bills,
      and learning how to "program".

      And that was no cake walk.  School of hard knocks, I call it.

      thank you very much for the kind feedback Abelia,

      I'm glad this spoke to you -- I almost didn't write it.
      (too much navel gazing, or so I thought after the first draft)

      What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
      -- Maslow ...... my list.

      by jamess on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 03:12:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The conversation we need to have (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, SanFernandoValleyMom about "social dislocation." It's an important economic term, not used much in the US. Yet. For the most part, social mobility is over. There is no longer a national investment in human capital. And, no commonwealth; America's bounty is privatized.

    Most people, when knocked over by the truth, have a tendency to pick themselves up, brush themselves off...and then hurry away like nothing had ever happened.

    by Pluto on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 03:44:31 PM PST

    •  important topics: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, SanFernandoValleyMom

      "social dislocation"

      "social mobility"

      "pursuit of opportunity"

      "the source of opportunity"

      "the shrinking of the commonwealth"

      "the expansion of the private wealth"

      "the unregulated cycles of boom and bust"

      -- much more worthy topics of conservation

      that the inane Job Creator-Shrink Govt pablum,

      that passes of economic discourse,

      by far too many would-be political leaders, these days.

      What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
      -- Maslow ...... my list.

      by jamess on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 03:52:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I used to have a lot to say about the economy, but we've run out of cross streets and turnoffs on the highway to hell. It was a great topic when you could still help people protect themselves. Now, not so much.

        Most people, when knocked over by the truth, have a tendency to pick themselves up, brush themselves off...and then hurry away like nothing had ever happened.

        by Pluto on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 04:02:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  bad link (?) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    your social mobility link to the ap/wash post doesn't appear to be working.

    thought provoking diary, thanks.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 03:54:36 PM PST

  •  One of the reasons the myth persist is: silent ev- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Pluto, joe wobblie


    I ran into the term throughNicholas Nassim Taleb.  Silent evidence, as I understand it, is essentially evidence that is ignored because it doesn't stand out for one reason or another.  An example Taleb uses mentions the alleged proof that prayer by a ship's passengers kept it afloat during a storm.  Obviously the prayers worked, right?

    The problem is, those people who prayed and still drowned aren't around to talk about it, so the evidence that the prayers didn't work isn't taken into account.  

    Taleb really runs with this, pointing out that books that define leaders by personality quality (e.g "all great leaders are risk-takers") can be completely bogus, as the stories of failures brought about by risk takers rarely get made into books.

    On to the American Dream.  One reason it remains such a powerful myth is that rags to riches stories sell more papers, books and screenplays that riches-to-rags stories.  Worse, as Stalin said, "One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic."  Well, statistic about a lack of success don't make as good copy a human interest stories about what may be just plain luck.

    We can begin to counter this by first appealing to local and community papers.

    Many towns have local weekly papers (you've probably seen them at supermarkets) that practically beg to fill up space.  A reporter or freelancer has a lot easier time getting printed in one of these than in a larger city paper.  I imagine that one could even volunteer to write a story for free and get published.

    Don't knock this.  A local foreclosure is local news, and can be tied into the "part of the national wave of tragedies" angle.  If several of these get published in the smaller periodicals, the larger ones see a story they can use.

    Proof that this works:  it was the heart of the the "media resonance" strategy Gingrich used to bring down Speaker Jim Wright and ascend to the Speakership himself.  Gingrich started a campaign on meeting with local papers' editorial boards across the country to flog a bogus corruption story about Wright, these meetings produced stories that e then collected and used to accuse the national media of ignoring a major story.  It worked.

    If Gingrich could do it with a lie, reformer can do it with the truth.

    Check out your local papers, find out who covers housing or who the assignment editor and give them the alert.

    Check out the following for good ideas on how to approach papers. Keep in mind it was written pre-internet, and adapt accordingly:

    Making the News: A Guide for Activists and Nonprofits, By Jason Salzman.  This is a great guide to the kind of activism that makes the mainstream media, something we have to do in order to be a visible presence.  Our champions will be more likely to support us if we get the kind of coverage the Tea Party gets.  Funny and effective.

    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

    by TheGrandWazoo on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 04:28:16 PM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site