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Most things are near normal in California's farm valleys

From Fresno to Salinas, to Chico, to Hamilton City, not surprisingly American flags are flying everywhere in California's agricultural valleys.

They are draped down the sides or flying atop grain elevators and storage tanks of all types. They are snapping in the breeze in pickup beds, atop tractor cabs, rice combines and cotton pickers, tomato harvesters, lettuce harvesters and on semis lumbering down rural roads carrying California's agricultural bounty to storage facilities and processors.

Crops must be harvested, and farmers and farmworkers are going about their fall routine. It's business as usual in the fields, vineyards and orchards. The only noticeable difference is the outpouring of patriotism.

However, life is not normal in rural California and Arizona nor will the business of farming and selling what is produced likely be the same for a while.

Agrochemical and fertilizer suppliers are being told to be extra vigilant to protect the products they sell, especially ammonium nitrate. The California Plant Health Association is reminding its members to ask questions of strangers wanting to buy products.

Reports are circulating that container ship lines will be tacking surcharges onto shipments to the Middle East. That will make it more expensive to export agricultural products at a most inopportune time economically for California and Arizona.

Local law enforcement has been put on heightened alert. Highway patrol officers are now guarding states' water and power supplies. Hazardous material trucks are being monitored more closely than ever before as they travel the Interstates and state highways. Weigh stations will be open 24 hours per day from now on to track all trucks.

Aerial applicators are awaiting the next FAA stand down National Guardsmen are on duty at small town as well as urban commercial aviation airports.

Those are just a few of the physical signs life will not be the same for some time to come.

The emotional element of what has happened continues stirring.

The span of almost a month between the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the American and British assault on Afghanistan has given people time to be reflective.

Patriotism may have risen to levels not seen in decades, but the anger did not subside in 27 days. Americans are still mad and remain very supportive of their government and its leaders to extract a price for the attack on America. However, fear and anxiety continue to be part of American life, rural or otherwise, especially in the wake of daily headlines warning of more terrorist attacks against America. There's little chance terrorists will attack Willows, Calif., or Buckeye, Ariz., but the fear of what the future holds is there, even in small towns.

Lights continue to shine at small town football stadiums throughout California and Arizona. Signs along the roads advertised fund-raising spaghetti suppers and rummage sales — signs that America refuses to be paralyzed by fear.

People are mad enough not to let the terrible terrorist attacks and the war America is waging disrupt their lives.

There is an assurance of normalcy driving country roads, looking at the crops and the harvest activities. As people wave passing on the single lane roads, it's like nothing has changed. However, life along those rural roads will not be the same for a long time coming.

Once farmers worried about the prices of wheat, rice, grapes, cotton or tomatoes. They still do, but now there is a fear that some day the boys in those football uniforms — their sons and grandsons — may some day be asked to fight for the right to enjoy the rural life.


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