City Folks in the Country

 

We live in a fairly rural area and I don’t have a lot of face-to-face contact with people who live in cities but I do know a few folks who live in urban and suburban areas. There are a lot of differences, naturally, in the way people live depending on their locale. But city folks in the country can be…interesting.

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When our boys were young a family from Detroit moved in across the road from our farm. In the first couple of weeks they were there I got several late night phone calls from the terrified wife. Her husband worked nights and everything scared this girl.

The first call came at about 1 a.m. and she frantically told me she thought her house was on fire. My first thought was that I wasn’t part of the volunteer fire department so calling me was not the best choice. As I stumbled down the stairs, cordless phone in hand, I realized the strong chemical smell she described wasn’t her burning home. Someone had run over a skunk right in front of her house. Apparently skunks in the city are more adept at dodging vehicles.

Her second call came a bit earlier in the evening. It was around 9 p.m. when she got me on the phone to tell me she heard a woman screaming. That got my attention. On the far north side of our farm lived a young family. The man who lived there owned a monster truck and was often away on weekends at shows. He had a wife and three very little girls. The thought that someone might be attacking them got my blood up. I took our dog and my gun and rushed out of my home on my way to help defend the family. I hadn’t gone twenty steps when I realized the “woman screaming” was actually the pigs from the farm west of ours. I called my new neighbor back and explained that pigs aren’t quiet animals and sometimes at night, when they jostled each other, they expressed their disapproval loudly. Apparently she had seen the movie “Babe” and thought pigs were very cute, very small critters with soft voices. I had to tell her these sows were over 500 pounds and the expressions of their annoyance carried.

The final frantic call was about a man jumping on her roof. By this time I was less than enthusiastic about explaining the facts but I did anyway. I told her to trim the tree branches that overhung her house. This would keep the raccoons from leaping from the tree to the roof and ultimately setting up housekeeping in her attic. Do burglars in the city avoid doors and windows, instead choosing to enter by chewing through the roof?

I got calls about the smell when the pig farmer was using the winter manure to fertilize his fields in the spring, about our rooster crowing not just at dawn, and the fact that a possum was eating food she put out for the feral cats. No matter what the question or problem she felt compelled to call me. Once, when I was outside on the tractor she went out on her porch and pointed at the house with her phone. My priorities and hers were not the same.

That fall, when the cornfields were all harvested and only the stalks, very hard, stiff little spears, were left I suddenly saw both our boys rush across the road into the cornfield. A moment later I saw them come out with the two little Detroit kids in tow. The boys had envisioned the two little kids falling and impaling themselves on the cornstalks which were frozen in place. My youngest son began lecturing the mom about letting them play in the cornfield. I had to go over and tell him, no matter what the circumstances, he wasn’t allowed to holler at an adult. As we walked back across the road he said disgustedly, “City people…should stay there!” I couldn’t have agreed more.

And the lady from Detroit reminds me of some of the people who are currently moving out here from cities. It’s not just their unfamiliarity with the sights, sounds, and smells of country living. Most of them have never hunted for food and a lot of them haven’t even gone fishing! They’re shocked at the amount of wildlife that walk through their property and are frightened of a lot of those animals.

Few can grow vegetables and even those who can don’t understand why you’d grow your own when you can just buy them. They’re nervous around chickens and incredibly leery of goats. The reaction to the cows and especially the longhorns is particularly amusing.

They call the county sheriff for nearly everything and are appalled that the sheriff’s department usually asks, “Don’t you have a gun?”

They can’t believe they have to drive to the village or to the next town to get gas, buy groceries, or find a McDonald’s while we are thrilled to even have a McDonald’s. They expect fast food joints and everything else on every corner. They don’t understand how people they haven’t met know who they are, where they live, and darned near everything about them. They’re a bit surprised that the kids who grew up here, for the most part, still live here. Apparently in cities, after college, kids move across the country. Here most kids end up married to kids they’ve known all their lives. And their kids will come home after college and marry someone they’ve known since kindergarten.

City people don’t get why we wave at everyone who passes by on foot or in cars. They don’t understand why extended families live houses within a couple of miles of each other and stay there until they die. Folks from the city don’t get why most of us grow large vegetable gardens and have chickens, rabbits, and other livestock. After all, those animals can be noisy and some smell. But, of course, they moved here because they love the country. They just love the country life that doesn’t include livestock, manure fertilizers, wild critters, and scary country sounds.

My only real problem with city people who move out here is that the first thing they want to do as “country folk” is change everything so it’s just like the city they left. And that is why, like my son, I usually think city people…should stay there!”

 

 

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