“Country folk”: Hardworking, honest, outdoorsy, friendly, and armed, according to various movies and TV shows I’ve seen. Statically more likely to wear a hat at all times, including in the bath, drive a pickup truck and track manure into a post office. Please understand I’m not trying to present our dear, dear country folk as somehow more simple and endearing than my tie-wearing, foie gras ordering, scotch sipping, city-hipster self, for I love the country folk. Without our dear, dear country folk, there’d be no bacon.
Merchant bankers provide no bacon. Lawyers provide no steak. Accountants can calculate tax owing, but can they calculate me some cheese? Stick an advertising exec like me in the woods, and how long do you think it would be before I could produce a cool, crispy beer? For fucking ever. I don’t know how to make anything. What is ‘yeast’? Do you grow it? Mine it? Hunt it? Boil it? Broil it? Bake it? Saute it? Yeast stew? Yeast salad? Yeast ‘n’ potates’ yeast burger, yeast sandwich? That… that’s about it. Yeast is the fruit of the sea.Mining towns provide us with the raw materials that miraculously ends up as internet delivery devices. Country folk of other nations grow me coffee. They are my Jesus.
I’ve had a long standing high regard for country life without ever seriously looking to commit to it. My aunt is a hill person who keeps ‘dexter’ cattle, which are like normal cattle except miniature. Walk up to my aunt’s mini cows and they’ll come and stand by the fence with you, seemingly till the end of time best I can tell. They’re as fat as they are adorable, munching on guavas amongst the sunny green. My uncle lives in the sort of town where he’s served as the liquor store manager, alpaca herder, lead community theater actor and ambulance driver. Presumably he’ll also serve as the mayor, the sheriff, and the annual “Miss Hay Bale” when his turn comes around.
My father – in a possible act of middle child rebellion – went in a completely separate direction from his siblings and ended up in foreign affairs, resulting in my very sheltered existence in various capital cities, close to en vogue ramen joints and gin bars but far from the farms and their majestic potato herds and endless groves of carrot trees.
So I was very interested to see my girlfriend’s family farm for the first time over the Christmas holidays. She goes to very great lengths to play up her cosmopolitanism and say she’s not a farmer, saying she grew up in Brisbane. As a state capital, Brisbane actually is a ‘city’, but in the same way that KFC is a ‘restaurant’, a Blackberry is a ‘smartphone’ and Paris Hilton is a ‘DJ.’
All technically true but we all know what’s really going on.
The property across the road turned out to be a chicken hatchery, where they manufacture tiny chickens. The house ‘next door’ was – in the tradition of farming towns – visible only on the horizon. Behind her house was nothing but open plains all the way to a distant grove of trees marking the beginning of a wilderness filled with moonshiners and outdated scientific notions no doubt. Total. Bumpkin.
The house itself, compared to my city apartment, felt enormous, with space – as the expression goes – to swing a dead cat, as apartment dwellers are ‘want to do’ for some reason. Swinging a cat in my downtown b-pad will immediately result in the decanter set being violently swept off the breakfast bench. My spare room is so small (“How small is it, Jeremy!?”) my spare room is so small, that guests have to walk out on to the balcony to turn around.
Outside in the country, the first thing I always notice is the silence, perfect save for low insect buzzing. No traffic noise, no neighbours, music or anything. Turn full around and you’ll see no people. Anywhere. It’s lovely if emptiness doesn’t make you uneasy; out here you could be waylaid by marauders and there’d be no one to come to your aid. It’s why, in Australia, it’s really only the rural people who own guns. Out here they can peacefully maraud travelers without any nosy passers-by getting in the way or catching a stray bullet.
But… I can’t live in the country. Yet. My job, which I adore, is of no use at all in a rural area. I’d be running the Facebook pages of feed stores and tractor dealerships (Denim Overall awards! Who wore it best? “Favorite” for Barry Mueller, “Comment” for Bernie Mueller and win a bag of sausages courtesy of Brenda Mueller!”). Going anywhere at all requires a car trip, which I hate. The local shops hint at a time passed by, selling odds and ends amongst the street signs designating “No roller blading” zones. Apparently, in the country the nineties have only just arrived. So not yet, but… one day.
They’re going to love Crazy Town.