Michael Philipps of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote a fantastic profile of Caity, who subsequently became disillusioned with her new hometown in the Bay Area as well, and had second thoughts about her Indiana hometown as well. Here are some excepts:
She posted the essay on the blog site Medium, she said, to spotlight the disadvantages faced by rural youth. “My academic background at a low-ranking, rural public school in a backwater town wasn’t good enough for admissions committees to take a chance on me,” she wrote of her many rejection letters.
Ms. Cronkhite didn’t think people at home would care or even notice. Her mother knew Fountain County better. After she read the post, she thought, Oh goodness. What is this going to stir up?
“How dare you blame our community for your misfortune,” one woman responded after the essay surfaced on Facebook. “How dare you belittle the people of the place I call home.”
A Covington teacher wrote: “I am going to pray for you tonight. After reading your article it seems as if you have underlying emotional issues that you have been dealing with for quite some time. It is sometimes easier to blame others for our shortcomings rather than look deep inside our own soul.”
One Covington High graduate identified himself as “a proud member of the Covington Community that got rid of a stuck-up, self-absorbed, whiny child.”
Some people empathized with Ms. Cronkhite and praised her candor. But the vitriol of her critics was hard for her to take. She called her mother, crying. “I can’t even come back to Kingman because they just don’t want me there anymore,” she said.
Ms. Cronkhite returned to California depressed about Kingman. She had fallen hard for the Bay Area. She felt her own politics sliding left, merging with her surroundings. She liked the racial diversity and gay pride parades.
To her disappointment, she found that the inclusiveness didn’t extend to white, small-town America. Friends at work one day called her over to ask about Cracker Barrel. “It’s just like a chain restaurant we go to treat ourselves,” Ms. Cronkhite said.
A co-worker jumped in: “It’s this really white-trash restaurant that overweight Midwesterners go to.”
Then came the invitation to join some friends at Butter. The San Francisco bar is decorated as a sendup of rural white America, complete with the front end of a Winnebago RV. The menu included such cocktails as the Whitetrash Driver, vodka and SunnyD; Bitchin’ Camaro, spiced rum and Dr Pepper; and After School Special, vodka and grape soda.
“It was, all of the sudden, in my face,” Ms. Cronkhite said. “Things at home we thought were nice or parts of our culture were treated with open scorn and disdain and like a joke.”
She sensed bigotry where she had sought tolerance and animosity where she thought she had found a welcome. The more she saw big-city small-mindedness, the more she softened on Kingman.
Ms. Cronkhite and her boyfriend had fun camping in Shades State Park. They went with her parents to the Moon-Glo bar across the Illinois line. They ate pork-tenderloin sandwiches.
At home, though, things got confusing. Ms. Cronkhite’s mother, worn down by hard Indiana winters, had persuaded her husband to buy a house in Alabama, not far from the Gulf of Mexico.
Would they be selling the farm? Ms. Cronkhite wanted to know. She couldn’t imagine her father ever leaving Fountain County.
Mr. Cronkhite, 69 years old, grew up nearby, as did his father and grandfather. He was drafted out of high school and served a year in Vietnam. Mr. Cronkhite returned to Indiana to care for his parents, who had made a living in the gas-station business, before becoming a long-haul trucker.
While on the road, Mr. Cronkhite was always eager to return home, where he would meet his buddies at the Marathon gas station for morning coffee. He drove by Niagara Falls dozens of times and never stopped to look at the view.
Ms. Cronkhite’s mother, Martha Cronkhite, was the one who always stopped to look. She was born in Columbus, Ind., and left as soon as she turned 18. She attended a two-year business school in Indianapolis and worked her way up the ladder at a shopping-mall company.
Mrs. Cronkhite, 66, met her future husband at a party in 1987. They were, in some ways, opposites. She rarely indulged in a chuckle. Once Gus Cronkhite got laughing, he would keep it up until he cried.
With her parents’ move now a certainty, Ms. Cronkhite and her boyfriend settled onto the back porch one night and talked about the land that stretched out before them. It turned out, she wasn’t ready to let it all go.
“If I ever have kids, they’re never going to understand this huge part of me,” she said. “I want there to be a reminder of where I come from and who I am.”
Click through to read the whole thing (subscription required, alas).