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September 04, 2003

Country Living

P.J. McVoy wrote an article that appeared in Wednesday’s edition of the largest newspaper in New Hampshire. It was supposed to be about how reliant we are on cars in everyday life. Instead, I got from it a feeling of what is wrong with the attitudes of some people that move into the country.

Supposedly, the reason these people move to the country is to become independent and have more room. What it seems like to me is some people move out of the city because it is trendy and they forget what neighborliness is all about.

The trend in living conditions is definitely moving towards independent, out of the way, crane-assembled homes. With this comes a reliance on the automobile that is even more profound than my own example. Imagine being stranded without one’s Lexus in Whispering Pines. Where would you walk to?

Uh, how about a neighbor’s house? In true county living, people are expected to be reliant upon themselves. BUT, when a need arises, help is given with abundance. Need a car? “Here take mine – no the good one, I’ll drive the hunk of junk.” Well gone dry? “Here are some 10 gallon containers of water. And, feel free to come over to take showers or wash clothes.” Car battery gone dead? Call up any neighbor and see how fast they get there to help you out (even in a blinding snow storm).

Heck, you don’t even have to need something and chances are you will be offered things. “I just got too many flowers to plant, here, you take some – please, you’d be doing me a favor.” Even at a yard sale you are likely to be offered whatever you want at no charge – just because you are a neighbor.

But the people that move into “cookie-cutter” country developments don’t seem to get to know their neighbors. I don’t mean become good friends, just exchange names and pleasantries a couple times a year and make it be known that you are available if they need anything - exchange phone numbers. So when it comes crunch time, they have no one to call and feel uncomfortable asking for help.

What sort of local community can form when there really is nothing to gather around, no central meeting place or town area within strolling distance?

If you have to ask that, you don’t belong in the country. Country people know how to make their own community even if it only entails such things as waving to people as you pass them on the road. You see someone at their mailbox and stop just to say how nice the day is - it doesn’t matter that you’ve only met once before and don’t remember each other’s names. It’s holding or attending a block* barbeque. It’s being there in time of crisis - not to gawk and mouth how horrible it is, but to help and support.

In the country, people look out for each other. I’ve dragged cars out of the road when people have become stuck in the snow and offered to take them to the store if they need groceries when they couldn’t get out of their driveways. I can’t count how many people WS has helped by dragging their vehicle up our road in the winter (people we didn’t even know). I’ve been the recipient of loaned vehicles and we have loaned out vehicles ourselves. One neighbor has an extra vehicle that always has the key in it and he let it be known that anyone could borrow it. I have shoveled and WS has plowed for people just because we knew that they would get home late. Others have done the same for us.

When our well pump crapped out (in the middle of winter, when pumps aren’t in stock and a new one had to be ordered), we had standing invitations from 3 different households to come over and get water or take showers whenever we needed. Only one of those invitations was from someone we knew well.

So people, even if you live in cookie-cutter developments, introduce yourselves to your neighbors. Learn that you can be independent in your country life but still need help every once in a while. Ask for that help if it’s needed. But be damn sure to be there when your help is needed. When you are out a vehicle, spread the word around because, as Buffy pointed out, the typical household has more cars than drivers. So chances are one of your neighbors (or even a friend of a friend) will have a spare one that will be offered to you. Unlike P.J. McVoy, I’m betting that neither you nor your employer can afford for you to take a week off because of car trouble.

*Block is used loosely since in the country it encompasses way more than a city block.

Posted by Bogie on September 4, 2003 at 03:28 AM in Life in General | Permalink


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Tracked on Sep 8, 2003 4:38:44 PM


Beautifully stated, Bogie. I'm not sure that it's country living that brings helpfulness out in people, though. As I recall, you and WS were just as helpful when you lived in the city. I think that people who are trusting enough to be helpful have a definite edge in life. It's been my impression that such folks enjoy life more. Pity those who are so wrapped up in themselves that they don't see another's need, let alone know what to do about it. Like you, I've found that when I need help, I get it. From friends, from acquaintances, from strangers, help is always there. You, WS, Sis, and Wichi Dude caught the helpfulness bug early in life, thank goodness! Suffer the bug in good health.

Posted by: at Sep 4, 2003 4:27:40 AM

I don't know how many times I've heard Flatlanders say "It's so nice up here. We've always thought it would be great to move to the country." Some folks have no understanding what it really means to give up the conveniences of urban living - no pizza delivery, nearest convenience store a 25 minute ride down a muddy dirt road, no garbage pick up, etc. And they've also lost the habit/instinct of neighborliness, as you mentioned. But maybe, just maybe, we can help them to reactivate the neighborliness gene.

Now all we need to do is to teach 'em how to say "You can't get there from here," with a straight face and a good approximation of a N'Hampsha' accent, ayuh.

Posted by: DCE at Sep 4, 2003 7:17:20 AM

Cop Car - yeah, but we were raised in the country (or in my case a small town). However, it is true, one of our neighbors came from the "big city" (Nashua) and is very neighborly and trusted by all.

DCE - Not too hard to teach them that phrase, especially when a place is 3 miles away (as the crow flies), but 17 or more miles away by road. True, the accent part is hard to instill.

Posted by: bogie at Sep 4, 2003 12:03:33 PM

Thanks for the link, Bogie. My parents moved to Missouri the week after I married. They discovered a neighborhood of northerners who had all moved to an area on Table Rock Lake from Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. It rarely snowed there, but when they had snow or sleet, everyone hunkered down and waited for it to thaw rather than risk the back roads on the hills. The first person out picked up milk, coffee, bread and the papers for the neighborhood. Everyone kept a stock of canned and boxed goods to see them through for a few days, and could count on neighbors for asistance. I don't remember seeing behavior like that when I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago.

Posted by: Buffy at Sep 4, 2003 11:04:40 PM

When my parents moved to a very rural part of Oregon - about 30 miles outside of Portland - they were surprised by the difference in attitudes.
Everybody helps everybody, like you say.
When the neighbors had one of their cows slaughtered (right there in the front 'yard' - much to my mothers shock n awe), they gave my folks a healthy supply of meat for the freezer...not because my folks asked, "just because" like you said, "we just have too much, take some"
My mom got in to the swing of things easily..she bakes and cans and gives the neighbors some of the fruits of her labors.

Posted by: Greg at Sep 5, 2003 1:20:21 AM


Well said, I thoroughly enjoyed your incisive piece on Country Living. Keep up the good work, James

Posted by: James Walsh at Dec 9, 2003 8:08:30 AM

Thanks Jim.

Posted by: bogie at Dec 10, 2003 1:20:04 AM