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Remaking the HeartlandMiddle America since the 1950s$
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Robert Wuthnow

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691146119

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691146119.001.0001

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Reinventing the Rustic Life

Reinventing the Rustic Life

Chapter:
(p.57) Three Reinventing the Rustic Life
Source:
Remaking the Heartland
Author(s):

Robert Wuthnow

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691146119.003.0004

This chapter examines how rustic life was reinvented in the Middle West. In middle America, hicks, hillbillies, and hayseeds drove down the cultural barometer. They spoke in a nasal dialect and perpetuated peculiar locutions, like “crick” and “warsh.” The picture was almost a mirror opposite of the Jeffersonian ideal that saw agrarian life as the taproot of civilization. The heartland was a national embarrassment. Rustics were simpleminded, ignorant, usually boring, and sometimes downright comical. The chapter shows how, between the 1940s and 1960s, heartland residents gained exposure to newer and more positive interpretations of the rustic life. It also considers shifting perceptions of the Wild West in the 1880s by looking at the stories of two Nebraskans: William F. Cody and Polly Spence. Finally, it suggests that the monetary connotation of landownership encourages residents to focus more on the landscape in conjunction with rustic life.

Keywords:   rustic life, Middle West, agrarian life, heartland, rustics, Wild West, William F. Cody, Polly Spence, landownership, landscape

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