Recently Rural: A Memoir
by Eugene Havens
Let me tell you about my great love of rural life. Allow me to share with you my goal of owning acreage, which I would speed across in a rusty pickup truck with dented chrome bumpers, as I rested my sun-reddened elbow out of the rolled-down window.
Then, there’s my passion for country music. It would blare from the pickup’s AM radio, an old song with a twangy guitar and a guy pouring out his heart over a girl. When the fiddle solo came on, because old-school country is how I would roll, I’d smack the dashboard in time to the two-step beat. Glancing up at the rear-view mirror, I’d spy a long trail of dust that arched behind the pickup like a rooster’s tail.
Did I mention my love of roosters?
Allow me to share my dreams of the rustic life when I rested my head in the dull, loud city. I’d fall asleep imagining the feel of broken earth under my boots, a fresh scent in my nose. Finally, let me brag to you about a sudden move to the country five years ago that captured my urban soul and wouldn’t let go.
Unfortunately, I can’t. None of the above is true. I’ve never pined for the country. Truthfully, and it may be a character defect, I have no use for dirt and smells. When driving through farmland, I engage the air circ button for as long as it takes.
I’m coming across badly. The country life is embedded in the American soul. Who doesn’t have a soft spot? But I can’t lie. As impressive as country music can be, and those cats can jam, I don’t give it the time of day, and I can’t even say I listen to the radio. I stream old music regularly, but it has punky guitars, and the musicians can’t really play, which is the point.
One thing I told you was true. Five years ago, I moved to a rural community. This town (if you’re reading this in a city, you’ll consider it a town) or city (if you’re from this town, you’ll consider it a city) is situated in a pocket of a Western state where only intrepid souls travel. By moving here, I was knowingly removing myself from the urban civilization I knew. Around me was a different kind of life, where flannel shirts, livestock, and guns were plentiful and comfortably owned.
Using data from the Census Bureau, we learn that upwards of eighty percent of Americans are city dwellers. I was one myself until I defected to the rural side of things. I went from New York to San Francisco to Los Angeles to one of the anonymous towns that dot the landscape.
Why did I do it? Would I do it again? Should anyone else?
Sure, it’s not unheard of for urban people to go rural. A doctor or a college professor will accept a post for a few years. It’s a ladder for career advancement. The professional returns to the city. My move to rural America? It wasn’t temporary. My rural life was to be a permanent one.
The country and I were being forced together to the death. I envisioned spending my days fishing, hunting, and talking about crop rainfall while observing city life from afar. The rational thing to do was give in.
I wasn’t rational. I was a city person. I would fight this.
Pickup truck photo Hilary Halliwell.