Land spreadin’ out so far and wide…

Although I am not from NYC, when our family moved from a very suburban part of Florida, I felt – and still often feel – as if I somehow morphed into the Eva Gabor character, Lisa Douglas, of Green Acres.  Goodbye, City Life!  A choice of no less than five grocery stores in a three mile radius?  Not happenin’ here!  More like I drive 25 minutes to a “real” grocery store.  Blockbuster?  Target?  Whole Foods?  Nope.  A close hospital?  Nada.  Although there is a small, decent hospital, it was a pretty hairy 35 minute drive when our daughter broke her arm….  An array of quaint eateries and bistros?  Hmmm… Well, we do have a great bakery in town, but aside from that, our eating establishments are mostly limited to Hardee’s, McDonald’s, and Sonic.  In other words, it’s a far cry from what most Americans are used to.  Granted, there are PLENTY of small towns, rural communities, and independent homesteads out there in our great land, but so many Americans have never experienced true country living.

Some of it I enjoy, and some of it, well… let’s just say that Lisa Douglas and I have more than a little in common!  In the spirit of David Letterman, here is my list of 10 things most people don’t really understand about country life:

10. When it’s hunting season, gunshots echo through the hills like popcorn in the microwave. Before I moved here, the only gunshots I ever heard were on Law & Order.  I imagine that even in some urban areas where gangs are common, residents don’t hear as many shots in a day as we sometimes do in an hour!

9. Bart Simpson knew what he was talking about when he said, “Don’t have a cow!” A cow in labor, much less giving birth at 3 a.m.?  There are no words to describe the sound.  Unpleasant to listen to, even harder to sleep to….

8.    Stars really do shine much brighter in the country. Honest.  Although you can see the stars from any big city, or even a suburb, they are much more crisp and clear when there aren’t a gazillion lights blocking out their brilliance.  From our yard, we’ve seen Mars and the aurora borealis, all without the aid of a telescope.

7.    When you drive on backwoods country roads (strains of John Denver here), everyone is your friend. When it’s barely 10 feet wide, strangers in oncoming cars are forced to look you in the eye at every bend in the road.  You each slow down, making sure you both have enough room to pass, wave, then move on.  It’s the oddest – and nicest – thing when everyone from old men in pick-up trucks, to young men on tractors, to teen girls on horses wave as they pass.

6.   When you’re not on the road, friendly is a relative thing. This one is probably not just a small town thing, but rather a community one.  People are nosy.  People are curious to know you and know your business.  I imagine this happens in PTA’s, bowling leagues, neighborhoods, and offices across the country.  Sometimes people are friendly because they want the 4-1-1.  Sometimes they are friendly because they actually do care.  Like I said, it’s relative.  You just really do notice how small a small town is when information is being “shared.”

5.   Quiet here means absence of sound. Well, I’ll amend that.  When it’s not hunting season, it’s quiet, very quiet.  The sounds one might hear are crickets, bullfrogs, birds, dogs barking, the occasional clip-clop of a horse walking down the road, and wind.  Certainly, cars driving by, tractors mowing hay in a field down the road, or a 4-wheeler can all be heard off and on.  But those sounds are, truly, few and far between.  Randomly, we’ll hear a fighter jet or a military cargo plane overhead, but that’s always kind of exciting.  Strangely enough, though, cows only seem to be in labor in the wee hours of the morning….

4.   Time moves at a different pace here. I’ve been to LA, to NYC, and Chicago.  And I confess, I’m probably much more a city girl than country girl.  I enjoy the fast pace and the ability to always have something to do or somewhere to go.  So I simply can not overstate the difference in attitudes between those living in urban areas and those living in rural ones.  In the country, the importance of one’s time is measured by the length of conversations.  In cities, or even suburbs for that matter, time is measured by how much one has accomplished.  Yes, I know that this might just be the difference between Type A or B individuals, and there are enough of both in each setting, yet I would argue that regardless of what type one is, country folk seem to value relationship over achievement.

3.   There is NOTHING to do, yet, there is so MUCH to do. Property is bigger, so one can literally spend the whole day mowing, weeding the garden, or canning the harvest.  I have spent hour upon hour peeling, pitting, and canning peaches, or chopping tomatoes and onions for homemade salsa.  And while homemade is a “good thing”, as Martha Stewart would say, it’s also an exhaustingly overwhelming thing sometimes.  On the other hand, unless square dancing or whittling is your passion, there’s not a whole lot to do for entertainment here.

2.     No matter how old you are in relation to someone else’s age, you’re always addressed as “Ma’am” or “Sir.” Seriously.  You’d think this might just be exclusively southern, but I’ve been in the northern plains countryside, and the backwoods western mountain areas, and been addressed as “Ma’am” by people twice – and half – my age.  While there is a great deal of emphasis in society placed on revering diversity, in the red state/flyover parts of the nation, there’s an even greater emphasis placed on respecting common courtesy.

1.      Despite small town America being linked with NASCAR,  most people don’t drive fast… at all! I grew up in Orlando, where everyone, it seems, drives slow because they’re busy looking for highway exit numbers.  But here, no matter whether you’re on a narrow rural road or a two lane “highway,” people just drive slow.  Picture your great-grandma going out for a Sunday drive; there is no obvious hurry from destination to destination here.  Our family jokes that everyone learns to drive on a tractor here, and that’s why no one can exceed 35 mph., but I don’t doubt there’s a little bit of truth in that.

There are many more differences in country living versus urban living, but these to me are the most obvious.  That, and maybe how wonderful it is to grow really flavorful, juicy tomatoes!

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