Jim Freeman In the Open
September 22, 2013
For our friends that are new to country living, you may have noticed that your new neighbors aren’t exactly like the ones you left in the ‘burbs. They may do things that are peculiar to you, or have tribal rituals you don’t quite understand.
In the spirit of fostering further understanding between country and city folk, I have prepared a partial list of items to help the metropolitan understand what makes country people tick, and for the most part it boils down to the things that country people can’t help but love. A comprehensive listing would take volumes, but the condensed version follows:
Football – Forget about soccer. In this part of the world football refers to that familiar brown, oblate spheroid purportedly made of pigskin but actually made of cowhide. College, high school or professional – country folk love their football. When it comes to college football it doesn’t even matter if they attended the school (or graduated high school even) – in fact the argument could be made that the biggest WVU or Ohio State fans have never set foot on campus.
Flea markets and yard sales – I really don’t know what it is about flea markets or yard sales that attract country folk, but for some reason they are magnetically drawn to them. Call it county practicality. Old tools, hand-made furniture, cheap Chinese-made trinkets and kettle popcorn are all some of the draws. Yard sales are a great way to get rid of your old stuff! Instead of taking it to the dump, drag it out into the yard and slap a price tag on it. In all fairness though yard sales are a great source of things like baby clothes or toys, that kids grow too fast to wear out, and again appeal to the practical, thrifty side of our country nature. Yard sales and flea markets are the same sort of thing with the biggest difference being that yard sales are temporary in nature and flea markets tend to be more permanent or at least seasonal.
Four-wheelers – Meaning no disrespect to my friends across the river, but it blows my mind how you have to wear a helmet to ride a motorcycle, as well as have the proper license, plates and insurance, but you can just hop on a four-wheeler and go - no helmet, no tags, no insurance or turn signals. I’m not complaining; in fact I am a little envious. In Ohio you aren’t allowed to ride them on public roads, but people do anyhow. In both states there are disastrous consequences. It’s a testament to how much country people love their four-wheelers. To some landowners, however, they are a blight.
Farmers and farms - Whenever you hear about someone complaining about a farm in the neighborhood, chances are the complainant recently purchased his five acres of heaven in the country and is then surprised when it isn’t just like the city. As for country folk, we’d rather smell cow dairy-air than smog any day. It doesn’t matter that most country people have never farmed a day in their lives. We also appreciate the people who grow our food.
Old farm implements as decoration - Got an old horse-drawn sickle-bar mower just taking up space? Stick it out by the end of your driveway and plant some flowers around it for rustic outdoor decor! The countryside is decorated by old tractor tire flower planters, plow mailboxes, hay wagons and the like. As I mentioned earlier, most of us are a few generations separated from the farm, but the farming DNA surfaces in the form of farm implements as lawn ornaments, plus we don’t like to get rid of anything.
Food – Food is a big part of the country mindset and we take it seriously. When you visit someone in the country they feel compelled to feed you, and you’d better not turn it down. Furthermore what’s not to love about potluck? The words “Bring a covered dish” are practically part of the Methodist or Baptist church litany following right after the word “Amen.” Some of the best gourmet eating is to be had in church basements and social halls - delicious casseroles, desserts and entrees all guaranteed to satisfy the most demanding gourmand. No matter your tastes, at a big potluck there is guaranteed to be something you like unless you are a vegetarian, which leads us to the next item…
Meat - Forget that vegan stuff. In the country there’s room for all of God’s creatures, especially right next to the mashed taters and gravy. In fact in some places you might be better off to not ask what type of meat you are eating.
Doggy bags - After “check please,” the words “Can I get a box for this?” symbolize the end of a typical restaurant meal in the country. Most quality wait-staff don’t even bother asking before bringing out a container or box. I have seen city folk literally crawl under their tables from embarrassment when their country dining companions ask for a box to take away the unconsumed parts of their entree.
Guns, God and ‘Merica - To paraphrase President Obama, country people really do cling to their guns and religion. Probably part of the reason you don’t hear about as much gun-related violence in rural areas is that everyone has one. I recall a public service advertisement back in the 1980s where some suburban kid, in a whisper, tells another “I’ve got a gun,” and disaster ensues. Around here such a statement doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. I read in news stories where cops raid someone’s house and report finding an arsenal of several rifles and shotguns and thousands of rounds of ammunition - to me and my friends that’s just another relaxing Saturday afternoon’s entertainment.
I hope that provided a little food for thought. In my next installment I will explore even more things that distinguish the true country person.
Jim Freeman is wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District and a long-time contributor to the Sunday Times-Sentinel. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at firstname.lastname@example.org