Whatever it is that possessed me to live like my grandparents has a powerful draw. Don’t get me wrong. Without internet access, I wouldn’t have the eleven readers who make time for me just about every week. Indoor toilets are pretty nifty, too. I’ve spent long stretches of time without them, and let me tell you, there are darn few days where an outhouse or porta-potty is anywhere near pleasant. However, a simpler life calls to me.
It seems that I’m not alone in my desire to withdraw from the asphalt jungle to rolling hills. More and more people are fleeing life inside the city limits. The decade-long trend of Northern refugees streaming into the South has produced a secondary migration.
Those of us who understood the implicit condition of welcoming acceptance as Adopted Sons of the South required abandonment of any remaining distasteful Northerner ways find ourselves looking around and thinking, “Damn, this place is full of Yankees.”
My current place is an acre just outside of town limits. Unfortunately, it’s a developed community. A cluster of houses on large lots with city water and electric. Shooting in the backyard or taking a deer from the surrounding woods is technically legal, but a couple of residents still like to pester the city cop a few houses down from me to “do something about the gunfire.” I doubt much will happen, since he’s responsible for as much of it as I am.
My nearest neighbor goes ape-shit over my rooster crowing every morning. I think she tried to snitch me off to the police, Animal Control, and Child Protective Services when she saw me skinning animals I trapped in the back woods and having my kids help butcher the rabbits we keep.
Hey, lady, if you don’t like the sound of cocks, guns, or the thunk of a dispatch stick across the back of a rabbit’s head, pack your shit and move back inside city limits, where they have rules against those sorts of things. No wonder your husband left you.
Toward the end of achieving our Green Acres dream, Mrs. Cunha and I withdrew farther into the Tennessee Valley, until we completed a best-of-seven round of Roadkill Bingo and began to spot Amish buggies clippty-clopping along the road shoulder.
Turning down a likely looking farm road, we saw more Confederate battle flags than in an Alabama graveyard on Veteran’s Day. We were confident our new home was nearby.
To make a long story short, Mrs. Cunha and I are now the proud owners of a thirty acre farm, half wooded and half planted hay field. The bad news is that I’m the only one on the hook for the mortgage, but I think I can trust her. If she hasn’t divorced me by now, I’m probably safe, even with my hellacious nighttime farts under the covers.
Just so you have an idea of what the Cunhas consider “far enough” from town, let me paint you a picture.
The nearest town is twenty miles away (closer to fifteen, as the crow flies) and is the county seat with a whopping population of 2,400 people, in a county with a tad under 17,000 souls. There ain’t shit there but a McDonalds and some government offices. I mean, not even a titty bar.
Thirty miles in the opposite direction is the seat for the adjoining county. It’s a comparative metropolis, at a little over 10,000 people in a county of 42,000, where can be found a WalMart (complete with parking spots reserved for Amish buggies) and a Home Depot. Basically, everything I need in life because if neither of those places carry it, I probably don’t need it.
However, a titty bar would be nice.
For perspective, the last three cities I’ve lived in, starting from most recent, had populations of 186,000, 843,000, and 1.4 million. As you can see, we’ve been aiming for smaller and smaller communities. That’s by design. I’ve purposely steered my career to allow for moves to less and less populous areas.
The area is by no means as unpopulated as it could have been. However, I wanted to keep within a slightly unreasonable driving distance from our current locale. It’s far enough to be a pain in the ass to drive every day for work, but not impossible, if I need a day job.
We didn’t do anything crazy like move to a town the size my dad grew up in with 108 people, as of my last visit there when we buried my grandmother in the mid-1990s. It’s probably a good thing that I resisted the urge to cross-out the listed population and write-in “107” on the “Welcome to Danbury” sign, since they had a spike of eighteen people from 1999 to 2000 that lasted for a decade.
There must have been a Mormon family move in for a while.
Of course, my favorite small town was Madeline, California. It had eighteen residents during the years me and Jake were press-ganged by our parents to be Old Pete’s ranch hand summer interns. I’m still cleaning the mud out of my ears.
I’m super stoked about this new homestead. I haven’t a clue what all I’m going to do with the place, but the possibilities are the most exciting part.
I know that thirty acres isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but it sure seems like a lot when you walk the fence line.
More good news is that with two (count ’em, two) somewhat dilapidated barns, near self-sufficiency in the only utility hookup being electric with a backup generator that can power the whole place, mature trees in back, a small pond, and a reasonably flat field ready for subdivision, the possibilities for projects is fairly extensive. Now, I have the good problem of which improvement projects to undertake and in what order.
What kind of weridos gets excited about pending projects that entail back-breaking labor?
Well, us for one, and a whole lot of other people, believe it or not. The same wave of people driven out of California by high taxes, restrictive gun laws, hostile political climate, and unfriendly business attitude who settled in Texas and points east have made the region a little too crowded for some of us.
However, I think the real reason has more to do with a desire for fulfillment. Our grandparents seemed happier and more satisfied with life when it was not lived within literal spitting distance of neighbors; people seen every day without knowing the most basic facts about them, like their names.
That’s her, right there, wearing one of my shirts, while she’s getting her hands dirty. Isn’t she beautiful?
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