In spite of living often unspeakably hard, endlessly challenging lives, rural folks, no matter how poor, remain tirelessly optimistic and believe things will get better next year. One struggling farmer explained it this way: Sometimes I feel like a jackass in a hailstorm - I just have to stand here and take it...but what the hell - it'll stop hailing sooner or later . Trying to survive on the richest farmland in America has produced some of the nation's poorest people. Yet, this book argues, as pertains to rural poverty, the usual definitions and criteria don't always apply, the known predictors of poverty don't necessarily hold up -and rural people save themselves again and again, because they know no one else will. The book also refutes the common image of the poor as lazy slackers who don't want to work. In reality, the rural heartland is populated by fiercely independent, politically astute, extremely hard-working men and women who possess a wide array of useful skills - and who struggle year over year to stay afloat in small-town economies that rise and fall on the whims of remote farm policy decisions, a volatile world-wide marketplace, and Mother Nature, who is a fickle, wildly unpredictable business partner.