Town or Country?

Town or Country?
By Mike Vines

There has always been a philosophical contention between city dwellers, and those of us living in the country. Some say it's the difference between culture and practicality, and both have their stalwart devotees unwilling to compromise their ideological convictions at any cost. Many love the fast paced action of the city and the around-the-clock excitement it offers, including its prestigious schools, its grand museums, and the convenience of countless eateries just around the corner. They thrive on the constant human interaction that offers instant exchange of information concerning local and global issues, and an ever-evolving network of friends who provide the desired emotional support and companionship. We countrysiders also enjoy company, and we put on a pretty good fish fry and cakewalk now and then, but that's the usual extent of our socializing as we spend most of our time outside doing the things that need to be done most. I say "most" since we're all experts at prioritizing, making cost and time (in that order) the overruling considerations. Know-how is another matter. But we also take pride in knowing nature, and the changing of the seasons is ours to behold. That's not to say a fine rainy day can't be enjoyed within city limits. I did appreciate the occasional cloudburst and lightening that lit up the evening sky during my early years in suburbia, but watching the rain water run down concrete walls and into concrete drains provided little stimulation for my hyperactive imagination.
The type of interaction we practice in the country is more along the lines of trying to second-guess nature, dealing with its sometimes destructive forces, and enjoying the fruits of our labor. Peace, and the quiet tranquility of a warm summer day, is some of the benefits that make it all worthwhile. I love it when three cars on the same road is considered a traffic jam, and how the evening sunset dissolves into delicate whiffs of pastel colored clouds, instead of a grungy brown shroud suffocating the pale silhouette of a city landscape. It's always fun browsing through a new season of seed catalogs while planning for the next bountiful harvest of fruit and vegetables, and setting aside a plot in the garden to try out that new sugar corn variety, and maybe a pumpkin or two. But, like any worthwhile relationship, living with nature is not carefree.
A thick, lush carpet of bluegrass or tall fescue is a pleasure to admire, but not when it's in your garden. When those highly anticipated seeds you planted begin to sprout, their weedy cousins will do the same, and at a ten-to-one ratio. A brief moment of procrastination can result in an alarming jungle of backyard overgrowth that can double as an impenetrable border for a maximum-security prison. Vicious, tentacled brambles reach out and strike you faster than a viper, whether you're riding a tractor or not. And when it bunches together it can make the gnarliest barbed wire known to man look like tooth floss in comparison. When left au naturale, flora and fauna you never knew existed will spring up and overtake previously well-manicured turf in no time, and the unfortunate domestic animal that wanders into it would inescapably revert to the wild.
My backyard makes an interesting botanical research lab during the summer. Casually strolling along the dense orchard grass will often reveal some sort of weird, psychedelic-colored weed that seems to have originated from another planet. You'll also find groups of tall, spindly, bulbous things that look as if they'll pull-up roots and start walking on their own. The kids started calling them Triffids. Then there's that gruesome patch of fleshy, low growing, thorny vegetation that causes both man and beast to take an immediate detour around it. Yes, rural backyard exploration can be intriguing.
Big cities are generally immune to droughts, having planned for their occurrence way ahead of time, but in the country we cut back on water consumption to the point when even moles start complaining. Livestock always get their share, but the garden waits on precipitation to be invigorated. The value of a good barn cat is also demonstrated at this time. Mama Kitty, aptly named because no one has ever seen her when she wasn't pregnant, is an expert at rooting out the cleverest of vermin, and she has passed on that skill to all of her offspring with great success. If only she'd get out of the habit of presenting their entrails to us at supper time as proof of her prowess.
There's a fair amount of labor involved to truly enjoy rural living, but the effort is well worth it. The absence of police and ambulance sirens wailing in the night, a crime rate that is almost non-existent, the ability to hunt and fish whenever the mood strikes you (although there's always something around the house that needs looking after), and listening to the sounds of nature while kicking back on the porch when the chores are done are a delight that never grows old. These are the peaceful and serene moments a lot of us dream about, and living it everyday is a thankful and cherished privilege.
The energetic pulse of the city offers much to those who find excitement in her vitality, but we've grown to appreciate life much in the same manner as told by the old fable of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse: A crumb taken in peace is better than a banquet taken in anxiety.
Now, if that damned fly that has an unnatural attraction to my right nostril would just leave me alone, and those carpenter bees, also called B52s, which are buzzing me out of my chair because they decided my favorite spot in the yard now belongs to them, would buzz off. And those pesky wasps, the way they hover around your head with their landing gear hanging down, has me thinking about that screened-in porch once again. Excuse me, but I have to RUN!

Mike Vines is a freelance writer who lives in Austin, Kentucky. He can be reached at