Boomers & Stickers

There are boomers and there are stickers, wrote Wallace Stegner: those who need to go and those who need to stay. The boomers push on, restless and searching, the stickers linger, setting up towns and local governance.

My introduction to Stegner was Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West. I’m not sure if this is where the boomer/sticker notion first surfaced; I suspect you’ll find it — at least thematically — in his fiction, as well. Over the years it’s been picked up by community-builders and church-builders and was the launching point for this lecture from Wendell Berry.

A preponderance of those who reference the boomer/sticker dichotomy seem to favor the stickers: those who put down roots and participate in the work of building communities and local economies. Boomers get the side-eye, described by turns as opportunists, gold-diggers (literally), fortune-seekers, rootless, greedy.

But surely people set out for the territories for reasons other than greed and acquisitiveness, just as those who stay don’t always do so out of any great affection for a particular place. Sometimes folks just get stuck.

I like this song by James McMurtry.

“Flatter than a tabletop
makes you wonder why they stopped here
wagon must have lost a wheel
or they lacked ambition one.”