Rural living certainly has its downside. You can’t walk to the fence in the backyard and borrow a cup of sugar (or a 19/32” wrench), you can’t get anything delivered or any work done around the place that you can’t do yourself without an extended song and dance. And so on pretty much until you get tired of listing things.
What qualifies as “rural living”? Well, if you have to decide what is faster in a medical emergency: driving to the hospital; waiting for an ambulance; or driving to a helicopter landing spot for that $18,000 flight to a hospital, then you are talking about rural living.
For every inconvenience, inefficiency, even every safety issue there is a corresponding benefit, and when you think about it, there must be more benefits than disadvantages because the road to town goes all the way in and we could move to town whenever we wish. And we don’t.
Take, for instance, just last week. Once again, I won’t embarrass George Morrison by mentioning his name as the person who noticed some of our cattle were out. That person (G.M.) called and alerted us. Then helped us get the cattle moving in the correct direction and followed us all the way home to be sure every bovine got back. And it is not the first time that unnamed person helped us. Then, he called us the next day to magnanimously offer help of another kind. What a guy!
But wait, there’s more: as all cattle people know, cattle out is seldom a single instance. And a few of the more adventurous escapees went “over the wire” again just three days later.
This time, two other neighbors (the brothers Hampton, Travis and Brandon, who will not be named here) called us to report the incident and where the cattle were. Of course, the transport I was using broke down on the way to the scene of the escape, so I had to walk, in the dark, without a flashlight (last time I’ll make that mistake).
Those two neighbors were driving the cows back to our place and met me as I walked to meet them. They insisted on remaining with me to drive the little wanderers all the way home.
Like good cattle always do, they went directly to the spot where a tree had fallen on the fence, driving the wire to the ground and ambled through. But, as we all know, they pretended they were home for good but were just waiting for me to turn my back so they could split again.
Since I was without transport (and a light source) it looked like morning before I could repair the fence, much to the joy, no doubt, of the traveling moo-sters. But the two neighbors again insisted on helping even more. They used their flashlight, their fencing tool, their hammer, their staples to affix an old wire gate that was nearby to span the downed fence, making it as “good” as the fence around it, much to the disappointment of the eagle-eyed cattle. This cattle drive and fence repair occurred about 8:00 pm and even with a bright full moon was a serious hassle.
How do you thank neighbors like George and Travis and Brandon? They won’t take anything for their trouble. I guess we’ll just have to be good neighbors ourselves, helping others when we can, trying to get “even” Karma-wise.
I suppose city people can be just as good neighbors as country people. Maybe they just don’t get as many chances (not many cattle herds in the city- chickens maybe, but no cattle) or maybe population density in cities does something to people and they decide to remain uninvolved with their neighbors. Who knows?
I do know that Mr. Short, our fabulous neighbor, once told me a story about neighbors that bears repeating: He was asked by some newcomers to the area, “What sort of neighbors do you have around here?” Mr. Short responded with a question of his own, “What sort of neighbors did you have where you used to live?” He was saying, of course, and not very subtly, that the neighbor we are to others are the neighbors we get in return. A rule country people learn almost from birth (or as soon as they become country people).
Sure, like everyone, we have had a problem or two with neighbors in the thirty-five years we’ve been newcomers here, but the huge, overwhelming number of just plain fine neighbors makes up in spades for those very few problems we have encountered over the years.
Long way to the store? To the library? To school? To the doctor? To work? Yes, all that and more hassles to be sure, but the trade-offs are far in excess of just even. Otherwise, how would you account for the joy city people manifest when they move out here, and the sadness and resignation that country people show when they “have to move into town”?