Recently Rural: A Memoir
by Eugene Havens


Can I tell you about my great love of rural life? What if I shared 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?

I’d need to bring up 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 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 my pickup truck like a rooster’s tail.

Could I mention my love of roosters?

Allow me to share my dreams of the rustic life whenever I lay my head in the 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 I drive through farmland, I engage the air-circ button for as long as it takes.

The country life is embedded in the American soul. Who doesn’t have a soft spot for idyllic pleasures? 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, ironically or not.

One thing I shared 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. Moving there would remove me from the urban civilization everyone took for granted. Around me would be a different life, where flannel shirts, livestock, and guns were plentiful and comfortably owned.

It’s not unheard of for urban people to go rural. A doctor or a college professor will accept a position as a ladder for career advancement. A few years later, the professional returns to the city. My rural move was a Faustian bargain, a permanent one.

In my forty-seventh year, the country and I were being forced together to the death. I imagined running out the clock by fishing, hunting, and talking about crop rainfall while observing city life from afar. The rational thing was to give in.

I wasn’t rational. I was a city person. I would fight this.