The Fall of Rosebud, Texas by Emerye Jackson

My family and I are from a very small town located in Central Texas called Rosebud. Visiting Rosebud is like traveling back in time. The dirt roads that were once covered with sophisticated wagons, the rundown buildings that were once housed by the most respected people in town, the rotting old steeple that once gave shelter to all of god’s children, and the rust stained barn across the pasture that once provided a sense of adventure in the eyes of a child. My mom was 17 years old when she had me. Every day after school she would have to come home and take care of a kid instead of hanging out with friends or focusing on her studies. Life became hard for her; she couldn’t go to the University she had been planning to go to her whole life. She was stuck working part time at a grocery store in order to support me even though deep down she knew she couldn’t even support herself. Because my mom was so young and couldn’t afford our own place, we had to live with my grandparents for a few years. Once my mom found a job we had to leave. I was three years old at the time. It took me a while to fully understand why we left. Mom always said that there was nothing there for us, that if we had stayed we’d just be stuck in time forever, that we’d never have another chance to escape again. Why she hated it I have no idea.

I guess her leaving had a lot to do with the way people treated her. She was always seen as a small town girl who could never leave. My mom was born and raised in Rosebud, Texas. She knew everyone and went to the same school my grandparents went to when they were children. My grandparents were very religious people and wouldn’t allow music or dancing in their home. Growing up in a home like this was very difficult for my mom because she felt as if she couldn’t be like the other kids her age. The kids at her school used to tease her because she never heard of NSYNC or only heard one song from New Kids on the Block. It was tough being a kid in that type of household. She felt that if she would have stayed there she would never be given the chance to live her own life and follow her dreams. By the time she was twenty-one she decided it was time for us to leave and we packed up and moved to the city. Although the town was quiet and followed its traditions, there was a sense of peace and serenity. We may not have been the wealthiest of people but we did appreciate what we had. We worked hard for what we owned and that’s what made us happy, the idea of providing for our families the only way we knew how.

Living in a town like Rosebud, everybody knew everybody. It was almost impossible to see a new face. You were either distant cousins or attended Pleasant Grove Primary School during your youth. Every time we would go to the local corner store or visit the old Mexican restaurant near the outskirts of town, my grandparents would stop and talk to people I have never seen or heard of in my life and it would end up being someone they went to school with almost 60 years ago. To this day, every time I visit Rosebud I am still running into people I haven’t seen in over sixteen years. I may not remember them, but it is hard for people to forget one of the youngest former residents in town.

Even though we all knew one another and got along quite nicely, we still appreciated our privacy. The residents seemed to keep to themselves most of the time. The only way we really kept in touch with the town’s news was either from the nosey neighbor across the pasture or the daily newspaper we’d find at the local corner store. Everyone had their own responsibilities and their main focus was maintaining the farm and making sure the crops were ready for harvesting and the livestock were being raised correctly. Although our time by ourselves gave us the opportunity to work efficiently, mostly tending to our luscious corn fields or producing golden hay for our livestock, it also made us appreciate the time we were able to spend together.

On Sundays after church we would go and visit the ranch home of an old neighbor of ours and have pink lemonades while we played in the back with her dogs. My papa would be in the shed with Uncle Charlie fixing that same old tractor that seemed to never work while my Annie would be in the kitchen cooking some old recipe her mother made when she was a kid. Although it wasn’t our house we still felt at home. There was never a moment of feeling out of place because you were always welcomed in with open arms.

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(The old church where the town would meet up for service.)

When I was younger the town would always throw little festivals each season. They would decorate Main Street according to whatever holiday was coming up and have fruit stands and little shops where you can buy memorabilia on every corner. It was beautiful, especially when Christmas came. Each lamp post would be wrapped from top to bottom in Christmas lights. There would be mechanical Santas in the window displays that would wave and shout “Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas” every time you’d walk past it. And finally my favorite display of all, the giant Christmas tree planted in the middle of Main Square. You could see the lights from miles away. It was a time where families would come together and just enjoy the life they were given. Those are some of the memories I cherish the most. But that’s all they will ever be. Memories.

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(The Mainstreet of Rosebud 2015)

This is where most of the events and festivals were held.

As the years went by the kids grew up and they either went off to college or moved to the city. While the adults stayed and just kept getting older. They stopped having season festivals because there were no kids to throw them for. No more pink lemonades in the old neighbor’s backyard due to her greedy children selling the lot to the city after she passed away. Now the fields that were once covered in fresh corn or the perfectly aligned rows of home grown tomatoes are dried out and barren. Main Square, that was once the main attraction, is now considered a ghost town. Forever stuck in time.

Those who stumble across the small town of Rosebud may think of it as an old country community that holds many stories and memories of the once thriving metropolis, within the graves, while others just see nothing but a way of life that no longer exists. What they don’t know is Rosebud was once a lively and assiduous community.

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(The Mainstreet of Rosebud in 1901)

If you ask any of the older residents they would tell you about how booming the city was many years back. My grandmother would talk about how there were dress shops and ice cream parlors on every street. Gas stations and restaurants on every corner. It was a beautiful city filled with busy streets and charming vintage vehicles being sold in the old lot. It was a place where people could enjoy their way of life. To distract them from their worries.

Even though the town itself was a main attraction, the people were the ones you would come to see. Everyone was so kind to one another. If you needed a cup of sugar, or a quarter of gas, the neighbors were willing to give you anything with no strings attached, because they cared about your well-being. It being such a small community everyone knew each other because there were only three schools within the town. The town’s children would get together and play in the town’s old playground. Usually the kids you played with in the sand box were the people you’d invite to your wedding or introduce your grandchildren to.

The people of Rosebud loved one another. It was rare to see an unfriendly face. But it wasn’t always like that. After speaking with my grandmother who has live in Rosebud for 74 years, she explained that the Rosebud I know and love wasn’t always as “harmonious as it is now.” Back then during the time of segregation, “the whites would live on one side of the train tracks, where their land was located, while the colored people lived on the opposite side of the tracks, near the town.” Loretta Jones, an African American resident, described a time when her mother was present. “During that time the blacks would have their own shops, restaurants, schools, and churches, whereas the whites would have their own shops and churches.” Nowadays the town mostly consists of African American, or Hispanic families. Even though “the separation at the tracks still remains, everyone gets along and will help anyone in need.”

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A house that belonged to one of the most prestigious family is now a squatter home for homeless African Americans.

My grandmother describes her childhood as, “We didn’t have much fun growing up. We had to work at such a young age it never felt like a real childhood. There were some times where the kids would come together and play in the potato gil and didn’t care that there were snakes all through out the bottom of the hay. We didn’t have much money so we had to make our own fun, shuck corn, feed the hogs and chickens, cook, climb trees, whatever we could get our hands on.”  It was difficult for children to feel like kids because they had to grow up faster and make sure the work was done before it was time to play.

As time passed the once beautiful and vibrant city became nothing but a ghost. When the owners of land began to pass on and the hospitals closed down many people lost their jobs. As explained by Johnny Little, a Rosebud resident of 74 years: “Once the industry left, the town couldn’t afford to replenish the old shops.” They couldn’t afford hiring new clerks to watch over those shops. Once the kids began to grow up and move to the city where jobs were plentiful, the town was no longer the same.

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An old farmhouse that has perished over time after the death of the farm head.

Despite the hardships the town has experienced there are a few people that remain there and refuse to leave their home. These people mostly consist of the old and retired, whose children have long been gone. I spoke with my grandmother about what she would miss the most about the town and she replied, “I would miss the memories; My parents lived here, my children grew up here, our animals are buried here. I’ve never lived anywhere else so I feel like I wouldn’t fit in anywhere other than here.” Although there may not be any new opportunities for this society, in the end that doesn’t really matter to the people of Rosebud. This was their home for many years. “Their family was born and raised here and they will respect that forever. No amount of jobs or luxuries could change their loyalty to their town.”

Since the job industry left the town many people began to lose their jobs. They ended up having to choose either to sell their plots of land or retire in order to live off of their pension and unemployment money provided by the government. Usually after the death of someone in charge of the household all of his or her belongings and inheritance goes to whoever is declared the next in charge. “After the job industry left, people had to hold on to their money in order to pay for bills and taxes.” Because there were no longer an easy form of financial support for the citizens of Rosebud the city began to fall apart and is no longer considered a flourishing town, it is now considered a ghetto. Of course there are some who are well off due to their ability to maintain a job or they saved enough during their lifetime to live in peace until their death, as for others they will now be labeled as the lower class citizens of Rosebud Texas.

In “Jobs, innovation leave some small towns behind”, Cooke justifies the effect economic decline has on the majority of rural areas in the United States. Due to the decrease of trade and industry involvement, innovation has begun to slow down and the creation of new businesses have been put to an end. Because of the increasing population in urban areas, there are more job openings available. As people begin to move to the more populated areas the need for workers in smaller towns grows. The reduction in workers in smaller businesses lead to inefficiency and they begin to lose business. If more and more people begin to leave smaller towns there are less amount of customers which can lead to an economic down fall. Cooke then explains how political representation could be a major contribution to the lack of innovation in smaller towns. Since larger cities have become more populated the need for a political representative to help maintain the innovation process along with the financial aspect of the society is highly recommended. As for smaller communities that do not have a stable income or financial support the need for innovation is not the main priority when that money can go to someplace with more to offer.

In “Rural America Struggles as Young People Chase Jobs in Cities”, Shah explains how each year the population in rural counties decrease due to the aging and younger citizens beginning to travel elsewhere for work. According the William Frey, a demographer at the Brooking Institution, half of the shrinking counties rely on farming, manufacturing, or mining. These particular jobs can be physically stressful for the older civilians and are not catching the interests in the younger generation of civilians. It is seen that younger people are moving to more populated areas for a more urban life including more available options for jobs. It is statistically proven that the decline in population can lead to a reduced tax base, an increase in taxes on land and makes providing services more difficult. Natural decline such as death is also a contribution to the decrease in population. Usually when death is present younger people tend to move to the cities to start a new life and people begin to retire. As explained in this article, the search for jobs and the decline in the working population are what ultimately leads to economic decline.

Prior to researching other communities that have experienced a similar economic downfall as Rosebud I have discovered a pattern in the cause of the sudden decline of the job industry. One of the biggest contributions to the lack of job innovation is the younger generation of residents. Bigger cities provide a wider range of opportunities which catches the attention of younger individuals. As they grow old enough to start a life of their own they decide to branch out and move to the city where there are more job offerings, in hopes to obtain an urban lifestyle. Because of the decreasing population, the need for workers in smaller towns increases. As a result, there are not anymore available workers and the production of goods become inefficient which decreases sales and income. This is what leads to the mass unemployment rates in smaller towns. After a deep analysis and in-depth research on the subject at hand I have realized the reason the Rosebud I knew and grew to love changed so drastically over the years. As more and more children grow up and leave the nest, the more the town falls into economic depression.

Works Cited

Cooke, Ken Esten. “Jobs, Innovation Leave Some Small Towns behind.” Fredericksburg

Standard. N.p., 24 June 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.

Shah, Neil. “Rural America Struggles as Young People Chase Jobs in Cities.” WSJ.

Wsj.com, 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.

 

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The Fall of Rosebud, Texas by Emerye Jackson

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