Page:Poor White.djvu/57

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Bidwell, Ohio, was an old town as the ages of towns go in the Central West, long before Hugh McVey, in his search for a place where he could penetrate the wall that shut him off from humanity, went there to live and to try to work out his problem. It is a busy manufacturing town now and has a population of nearly a hundred thousand people; but the time for the tell- ing of the story of its sudden and surprising growth has not yet come. From the beginning Bidwell has been a prosperous place. The town lies in the valley of a deep, rapid- flowing river that spreads out just above the town, be- comes for the time wide and shallow, and goes singing swiftly along over stones. South of the town the river not only spreads out, but the hills recede. A wide flat valley stretches away to the north. In the days before the factories came the land immediately about town was cut up into small farms devoted to fruit and berry raising, and beyond the area of small farms lay larger tracts that were immensely productive and that raised huge crops of wheat, corn, and cabbage. When Hugh was a boy sleeping away his days in the grass beside his father's fishing shack by the Mis- sissippi River, Bidwell had already emerged out of the hardships of pioneer days. On the farms that lay