Mike Wolfe has traveled the highways and backroads of America for over a decade. Now, he does it for American Pickers. Before that, he did it to feed his passion for collecting artifacts of American history. When you get down to it, that’s what the show is really about. Sure, buying and selling antiques is great and the hunt is thrilling. But, it’s all about telling the stories behind the items and the people who collect them.
Fans of American Pickers know that Mike Wolfe finds some of the best rusty gold with the most dynamic stories in rural areas. That’s part of the reason that Wolfe is so sad to see this nation’s rural areas slowly fade away.
Mike Wolfe talked about this during a book signing for Kid Picker in 2013. However, Wolfe didn’t just discuss the disappearance of rural areas in an abstract sense. Instead, he made the topic personal with an emotional story.
Mike Wolfe on the Disappearance of Rural America
First, Mike Wolfe told the audience that sometimes they’ll go into towns and see streets lined with dilapidated empty businesses because the towns don’t have the money to tear the buildings down.
Then, Mike Wolfe talked about one collector’s Arkansas hometown. The collector that they visited to pick was in his early eighties. He had previously served as the town’s mayor for thirty years. His wife, Wolfe said, had been the local bank president for fifty years. Their roots in the community ran deep. However, the soil in which those roots sank had become barren.
The collector told Mike Wolfe, “You would not believe this town. When I was a kid, the streets were packed. You couldn’t even walk on the sidewalks,” but that was long ago. The “straw that broke the camel’s back” for the town was when they lost their high school. Now, kids who live there have to ride the bus 25 miles one way just to get their education. As a result, many families with children are moving away to give their kids better opportunities.
Mike Wolfe said that the locals noticed that they were filming. So, the streets started to fill up with onlookers. This touched the aged collector. “Look at that,” he told Wolfe, “there’s people on the street in my town again.” Then, the American Pickers star shared a quote that will give you chills. The collector told him, “Imagine outliving everyone you know. There’s a lot of people that do that. But, imagine outliving your town, your community. This town is gone. There’s nothing we can do to save this town.”
Mike Wolfe said that one thing we can do to save these communities is to teach children about their communities early. If the next generation has pride in their communities, they’ll do more to keep them alive.