I grew up in the country, yep a real corn-fed bred country girl. Before the onslaught of development, my childhood address was a route and box number (that’s country!) I fed chickens, played baseball in cow pastures, picked dandelions for my Nana’s homemade wine, shuck corn and enjoyed the sweet taste of wild honey suckle right off the vine.
More than 40 years have passed since that time; now I live on the top floor of a complex in a busy retail community. No chickens, goats or pigs; the only animals I see are well-groomed dogs on fancy leashes walking with their owners.
Last week I drove a friend to his home in a rural area of Virginia. It was a picturesque drive; farm houses, tractors, cows and horses peppered the countryside. When we pulled into his driveway, it was hard to see the fruits of his labor from planting season because an overgrowth of weeds and brush had taken over his property.
It was quiet there; as I walked, the sound of my footsteps on gravel made an interesting rhythm with the birds and crickets. Crunch, crunch . . . tweet, chirp . . . crunch, crunch, tweet, chirp. I walked around until I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. My friend saw a black snake in his home this time last year, with that in mind I held my breath and froze in place for few seconds.
Slowly glancing down at my feet, I exhaled a sigh of relief that nothing had slithered up beside me. . . Then something else caught me by surprise. “Ouch @#!!” SLAP! The sound of my hand hitting my leg echoed through the trees. I imagined a little bug with a rebel yell shouting “Come and get it y’all.”
I immediately regretted spraying ‘Amazing Grace’ (my favorite perfume) on my arms and legs that morning. A heavy dose of ‘Deep Woods Off’ would have been a better choice! (A country girl should know this!) Looking back down at the ground I saw a huge black ant carrying what looked like “live” prey back to his ant hole. “This ant looks like he could pick me up and carry me away!” I told my friend. He just gave me a look and said, “Val, stop playing, those ants are not interested in you!” . . . “Um, not yet” I said. “Ouch!” another sharp pinch on my leg. SLAP! This time I hit my leg so hard a red hand print marked my skin.
Ok, now I’m remembering what I didn’t like about rural country living. “Are the bugs biting you already? “ My friend asked in a mocking tone, “Aw, poor little baby! . . . Are you sure It’s not your imagination.” I pointed to the red mark on my leg, “Does this look like my imagination!” It was now late afternoon; the hot humid weather caused sweat to run down my face . . . I feel hot, sticky and itchy! ~ Not a good time! Flying bugs, ants, snakes; I wanted to jump in my jeep and head back to my comfortable apartment!
As a kid none of this stuff bothered me. I could pull a blood filled tick off a dog’s ear, no problem! . . . Thinking about doing that now makes me queasy. My mind drifted off to TV shows like the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ and ‘Green Acres,’ I laughed out loud at the thought of Eva Gabor dressed to the nines in a hayfield holding a pitch fork. I laughed so loud, my friend turned around and looked at me like I was crazy, then shook his head (he does that often.)
As much as I enjoyed my childhood, it became very clear that ‘the country girl’ in me had packed up and moved to the city! No, I haven’t lost my love of nature! I prefer clean air, singing birds and trees more than sidewalks, honking horns and smog! Nonetheless, I have changed. The comfort I once felt at rural living now conjures bouts of anxiety . . . “What do you mean there is no air conditioning!” Even so, I do have very fond memories of my childhood; a time when I didn’t mind the bugs, nats, ants and smell of farm animals.
In fact, I loved nothing more than running ‘all over the countryside’ with my sisters, brother and cousins. The benefits of growing up in the country are many; a wonderment of adventures every child should experience. But, at this time in my life . . . well, Eva Gabor sums it up best in the theme to ‘Green Acres!
“New York is where I’d rather stay.
I get allergic smelling Hay!
I just adore the penthouse view,
Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue.”
Did you live in the country as a kid? If so, tell me what you liked or didn’t like about it.