By Craig Dumas
Editor’s note 2009: This is a repost of an article lost when the archive was destroyed when CF was hacked last year.
Editor’s note: The Grizzly Woodsman is back and grumpy as ever. When I asked him for a few reasons why he prefers country living out on the edge of oblivion, Craig managed to whip up a list of ten semi-coherent reasons. Enjoy.
Neighbors – I don’t know about you, but I was tired of having nosy and irritating neighbors. You see, I used to live in the suburbs in an old ethnically diverse neighborhood. As a result, many of my neighbors were from the “old country”. That basically means I was forced into daily conversations with folks speaking through heavy European accents. I’m no xenophobe, but the constant pressure to socialize with neighbors really wears on me. It was inevitable that someone from next door would come to the fence on a daily basis if they should happen to see me outside. Then they would ask me about cutting the grass or any number of things on their mind. Better yet, they would stop in to see what car I was working on in the garage. Because they often barely spoke the language, it took me three times as long to explain something. Don’t get me wrong… this country is built on the backs of immigrants and most are just nice people looking for a better life, but I’m not a patient man. I would try to be polite but then it would turn into a meeting of the United Nations in my driveway.
Now my closest neighbor is at least 75 yards away and separated by a line of mature pines. I don’t see her and I only go out of my way to talk to her maybe twice a year. I barely know anything about her and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier.
Noise – Living in the city means putting up with road noise, lawn mowers, rude party-throwing neighbors, door-to-door solicitors, cars with oversized bass systems, police and ambulance sirens, et cetera. As a guy that likes to come home late after a night of softball and spirits, these disturbances can really amplify a hangover. Now that I’m country livin’, a quiet ride home after a game is closely followed by a solid night of sleep with nothing but the sounds of wildlife to break the silence. (And if there’s a particular bird that causes a problem for one-too-many mornings, it’s nothing that can’t be taken care of with a pellet rifle.) Living up here puts you in a different state of mind. It’s said things are different in the country. They are. Even the frogs croaking and peeping at sundown sounds soothing. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard a siren up here. Let’s see, once this year… and maybe once last year too.
Privacy – It kinda goes with the previous two items but it’s worthy of a separate listing. This is the key to happiness and self-cleansing. One not need use the bathroom when cutting grass, having to leg it back to the house, when you can just stop right there and give back to Mother Nature. I could (and sometimes do) go as far as naked lawn mowing if need be without the worry of a neighbor interrupting my commune with nature. My son is following in my footsteps now. Unfortunately, he occasionally has to be reminded not to urinate on the lawn when visiting family and friends.
Having fires outside is a pre-requisite of privacy and anything goes. Trash, firewood, and the occasional bushel of pot have been tossed into the fire pit. (Not on my property, of course.) “Those aren’t leaves you smell burning,” I tell my wife some nights. It seems we have some hippies across the street and with a good westerly wind, we’ve been known to get the munchies too.
People are friendly – Remember when you were a kid and every time you passed a neighbor everyone waved to each other? I do. We did it on our street. Not nowadays. If you wave at someone now, you’re asking for trouble and a possible weapon showdown if you inadvertently threw a gang sign. Out in the boonies, I’m back to waving and giving the occasional nod to passersby even though we know very few of them personally. Just the other day, Moose, as we affectionately call him (72 years young, 6’5”, and I put him at least 300 lbs, solid, not fat – I mean the whole side of the truck goes up when he gets out), a farmer that lives down the road, stopped in to tattle on my dog who was out on the corner watching the cars go by. It’s this type of mentality that allows two trucks to stop in the middle of the road for a brief conversation and not be bothered by an impatient car behind you trying to rush to wherever he has to go. Or even going to town and visiting any number of stores, ordinary folks always approach you to help out in any way they can. Can you get that same help in the city? I think not!
Local sports and news – Ever been on vacation in a small town and happen to catch a local newscast? When the sports guy came on, chances are all you saw were local junior and high school sports reports? That’s great. It really is. That is exactly how I knew the top (2008) draft pick in the NFL was Jake Long, an outstanding player and multiple-award winner from Michigan drafted by the Dolphins. He’s a local hero here having graduated from Lapeer East High School. Often, local residents call in to report various temperatures across the region and the weather girl actually shows the photos of the caller and where they’re from? And how many places can you see the lead news story is whether or not to pave a certain road, so-and-so’s cows got out last night, deer/car accidents are up, and how much younger the marijuana growers and sellers are getting caught nowadays. We even had two kids steal an ATM only to find out it was just new and not yet filled, just like the movie, Barbershop. (Had they lived in the ‘hood, they probably would have known to wait until the machine was filled.)
Roads – Speaking of roads… How often do you travel down a dirt road and find it smoother and less jarring that a paved one? There are many here like that. My county puts grading the roads as a high priority. The result is less of a burden to travel on and, I swear, they are more level, even, and effortless than pavement. Besides, big trucks go hand-in-hand with country livin’ so a muddy back road is just an invitation to have a little fun. Try that in your cookie cutter subdivision.
Traffic lights and speed limits – The fewer of each, the better, I say. My son’s school is 10 miles from the house. It’s a 10-minute drive thanks to the lack of stoplights and lenient speed limit. Home Depot in town? 13 miles and only three lights. You don’t miss these things when you live in the sticks. And if you happen to get pulled over by the sheriff, chances are you’re on a first name basis because your kids go to school together. “Oh, it’s just the Grizzly Woodsman with the lead foot,” he says and I’m back on my way.
Weather – When it comes to the local weather you wouldn’t think that being 40 miles out of the city would dictate a drastic change but let me tell you it does. Once out of town you can feel the drop in temp like going through a curtain into a freezer. We frost sooner, rain more, and measure snow by the foot. Local forecasters often say that storms typically travel along the expressway because of the wide, open spaces as if storms are consciously selecting these routes for travel. It’s got nothing to do with the natural geographical lay of the land – it’s all due to the expressway. I guess fronts never came through before the concrete was laid. Right on, you go with that. This proves that living in the sticks means you are subjected to the hokey theories of second- and third-tier meteorologists.
Technology and the lack thereof – Do you remember the big blackout in 2003? Everything was shutdown in the city. Out here in the country, we called it Thursday. Why? Because little changed. Cable and Internet were out? We barely get those services up here so they weren’t missed. We’re without power so often that losing it really doesn’t impact our lives at all. And if something happens in the winter, almost every house is equipped with a wood-burning stove. Life in the boonies means being self-sufficient.
Abundant wildlife – If you live in the city, it’s not too often you get to see a small herd of deer grazing or pheasants skimming through your yard. Out here, those are ordinary sights to behold. I often come across deer when I’m cutting the path around the back property. They quietly wait for me to go by before going back to their business. And the rabbits, well the rabbits are plentiful and use the backyard as a playground and racetrack. Drives the dog nuts. It’s a different type of family entertainment to watch them interact in the evenings and we get a chuckle every time. The kids love it. In the city, a family of rabbits would likely provoke a call to animal control. (“They’re eating my flowers!”) Besides, all the wildlife means I don’t have to go very far for some game meat. Venison can be found year round in my freezer. No butchers with their thumbs on the scale, just a hunter with a finger on the trigger!
In the end, I wouldn’t really want to live anywhere else. I tried city living. My doctor and psychiatrist warn against it. (If Al Gore invented the Internet, then I’m taking credit for road rage.) Sure, I come off as a naked, gun-wielding, isolationist, but I’m really a nice guy. I’ll even wave as you drive by. Just don’t get out of your car and approach too close.
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