“Rural America is dying.”
Small town businesses have closed their doors, as those living in the communities travel super highways to shop in the cities where variety is greater, and price is less.
Farm homes set idle rotting away, as the ones tilling the land dwindle in number, and individual operations grow.
“Rural America can be saved,” according to James Sheldon, who is coordinating a “Faith March,” with that sole objective.
The former Lawrence businessman now living at McLouth, when he’s home, hooked his Clydesdale mare to a box wagon with his bedroll, and a few staples in the back, and hit the road to do his part to make that statement a reality.
Although, his methodology and appearance are “old-fashioned,” Sheldon is “traveling the modern-way, too,” as he keeps “plugged in” with a modern cell phone and a computer.
“I stand to help save our little towns and farms, our blessings, and all we hold near-and-dear,” said Sheldon recently at Burlingame, one of several towns already visited, with more on his schedule.
He was quoting the card handed out to all of those he talks to on his journey that started in his home community and has included Winchester, Valley Falls, Hoyt, Delia, Mayetta and a dozen more since.
“I stand to show the courage of our pioneer forefathers and mothers, who by putting themselves in God’s hands, built something greater than their ability to imagine,” emphasized Sheldon, who invites all to join him in the effort, if they feel so inclined, and have the heartfelt desire as he does.
Before starting his journey, semblance of a century and longer ago, Sheldon put together a seven-part objective, which is included on his website, www.faithmarch.com, along with a map of the communities intended to visit throughout the southeast United States, concluding in Texas.
Updates are made on the site when he’s in rural communities that have services so he can operate his computer.
“I am not trying to sell you anything, ask for money or your vote,” Sheldon pointed out.
However, he “has a plan.”
The traveling gypsy-former mechanic-repairman, recognized, “It ain’t much of a plan, but with faith, it doesn’t have to be.”
Sheldon elaborated: “I am marching for rural and small town America to where God leads.
“We must put our trust in God, and by walking with Him, remember who we are, where we come from and what we’re made of.
“Instead of growing weak, we can grow strong in the One who holds our best interest at heart,” Shepherd expounded .
“God has given us a great gift to build upon, our cultural bond. Therefore, to find a way forward, we must come together as a people with a plan to preserve our rural communities. Otherwise, we’ll become part of someone else’s plan,” Sheldon contended.
“Our agricultural communities are dying, and with them goes freedom. We had better know it, because if we choose to eat from the all-controlling big government, and big business, we choose to give up our freedom,” he argued.
When Sheldon arrived in Burlingame, he visited with Pat Rusher, official at the Burlingame Co-op and also of the Burlingame Saddle Club, who made contact with others in the community, including Mayor Ray Hovestadt.
“We really appreciate Mr. Sheldon’s efforts to increase awareness of our town, the farmers in the area and others like us around the country,” Rusher said.
Mayor Hovestadt, a community businessman, recognized, “We’ve been working hard to keep Burlingame alive, and a grocery store is going to be opened here again soon.”
Idea for his “Faith March” was seeded several years ago when Sheldon walked and canoed the original 4,000-mile trek of Lewis and Clark.
“I got a firsthand view of problems facing rural America, and then I decided I’d do what I could to keep small towns and the little farmers alive,” Sheldon recalled.
Camping on the countryside, sometimes in farmyards or at community parks like he was doing in Burlingame, Sheldon has a small budget, and does day jobs along the route to make ends meet.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes, but the people have really been good to me,” Sheldon credited.
“Frequently, considerate people will provide meals, and even offer food to take with me. They’ll let my horse graze their fields and send hay along for her.”
A constant companion also is Jill, a Rat Terrier-Blue Heeler cross that rides on the wagon seat with him and follows at his heels when he stops to spread his message.
“To me, there is a threefold strategy for freedom. We must pull together as a people, defend ourselves against our enemies, and do as our pioneer ancestors who faced hardship with faith in God, and built something greater than their ability could imagine,” Sheldon reiterated.