Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A life apart

April 1995

The way we live in rural America is rapidly becoming so far from the American norm as to boggle the urban mind. The scientific definition of rural is farther from a town than the distance that can be traveled at mildly unsafe speeds before a fresh pepperoni & sausage pizza decomposes into male teenager breakfast food. The next time we want to impress upon city voters the desperate plight of farmers, forget about crop prices and weather.  What will win their sympathy are the staggering disadvantages we live with every day of our lives.

It only starts with no pizza delivery. Order a Major Power Tool - say, a Delta Unisaw with Full 52" Unifence ($1499 plus shipping) [ideal for Xmas, every man needs one or two, hint, hint] – and then try to get it delivered to the farm. Freight trucks, whose burly drivers routinely park nonchalantly in warehouse districts where Rambo is afraid to go, are obviously too fearful to venture six miles from a street address to make delivery.  I usually have such deliveries made to my bank in town, but recently they have begun to object to the fencing and plumbing supplies laying in the lobby until I can get in to pick them up. I don't know why, since technically, they own a larger percentage of the supplies than I do. Suffice it to say that when city dwellers are rushing to order pizza delivered at 9:30 pm. (in Pavlovian response to the commercial during half-time), some of us are moaning softly on the outskirts of civilization.

How about the highly touted and over-metaphored INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY? The cruel truth is that for those of us who could use information the most, chronically under-entertained provincial hackers, the phone call likely is more expensive than the information service itself.   Meanwhile, urban dwellers living within spitting distance of huge libraries (yes, I have checked this), can dial up the Internet with a free local call.  Like all the other major routes, the new I-WAY is not passing anywhere close to my house and will be a toll road to boot. And I'll probably be nearly dead (i.e., over 55) before optical cable comes to my farm. Don't tell me life isn't tough on the frontier.

Or try to get your garbage hauled in an environmentally responsible manner.  With teenage boys on a growing ration, the Snapple bottles alone provide a stream of outgoing refuse roughly equivalent to a small third world country, such as Oklahoma. However awkward this is in the city, it is magnified by infrequent garbage pickups, for us a random "monthly" event. We use about seventeen cans to accommodate the volume. A little more inconvenient than remembering to wheel a single can to the curb every Tuesday, I'd say.

The absolute clincher to explaining how rural life is different is WATER.  Around here, a good well is more precious than rubies. No, wait - that's a good wife is more precious than rubies. Whatever. When our city friends visit, adding a load to already limited aquatic resources, the possibility of running out of water seems to horrify them as no nuclear threat has ever done. The idea of showering to get clean, rather than as a method of steam therapy, as well as other simple conservation measures, strike them as draconian. They marvel at how we can stand such abysmal living conditions.  Like we have a choice. Sometimes just to blow their minds, I use my Serious Grownup Voice to suggest certain water-saving practices in the matter of flushing. Their horrified repugnance to these practical economies seems strangely incongruent in people who spend a lot of time with a "pooper-scooper". However, it is a sure fire way to wrap up one of those seemingly endless, but always enjoyable visits.  

It is not just the amount of water, but its quality that is a true blessing in the country. Water free from iron and "floaties", or at least translucent, with hardness somewhat less than liquefied limestone, is a real treat in our area. Oodles of city water being delivered to you for a nominal sum seems utopian.  Any rural homeowner can testify to the sickening feeling of arising in the morning to gurgling or sputtering, or worse, total silence when the faucet goes on.  Pumps enjoy failing in the same way as children tend to get sick - on Friday evening, during snowstorms, or right before leaving on a much needed vacation. Livestock farmers know this casualty all too well, but even for a household, the adventure of hauling water (assuming the old hand pump will prime) wears thin quickly. Forget about the hard work in the fields. This is what it means to live in the country.

Above all, don't get me started on cable TV.

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