Things I have learned living in the Rural South:
- Slow Down! Folks around here move slow, talk slow and drive slow. We have a very special neighbor that, when he walks, you need to hold your finger up to see if he is moving. When he comes to visit on his four-wheeler, I can walk around him in circles while we talk-while the wheeler is moving. A good conversation can last for hours, yet only consist of about ten total sentences. And don’t even think about trying to finish their sentence. If you do, you will get The Look – the one that says, “Don’t get uppity with me you know-it-all city slicker.” If you find yourself on the road behind an old pickup, please be aware that no matter what the speed limit sign says (25, 35, 45, 55), the person behind the wheel always ‘sees’ a decimal point between the two numbers. Except George. It’s probably best if, when you know George is coming up behind you, to just pull off and wait for him to pass. Even if he is fifteen miles behind, you won’t even have time to get the whole car off the road before he’s passed and almost home (another 10 miles up the road). I think it’s their way of silently explaining to us to slow down, enjoy life and celebrate the beauty of living in the country.
- Speed it Up! Country folks may seem lazy or slow, but in reality that is only a mirage. If you look behind the scene, you will see someone hoeing a garden, working cows, moving equipment, feeding livestock or doing other necessary daily chores. They were brought up to do their work, and do it well, and they take that seriously. There is only so much time to get the crops in. Grass has to be mowed. Animals have to be tended. If you happen to stop by while they’re in the middle of something, don’t be surprised if they put you to work while you visit. Randy has headed over to Danny’s to borrow a tool, and come back several hours later. Come to find out, he was stuck on the back of a planter, sticking watermelon plants in the ground. We have been in the throes of moving and working cows only to look up and see several neighbors standing by the fence (or leaning on it) watching the circus. Before you think they are just gawking, let me steer your thoughts in another direction. First, they know that just jumping in the middle of the fray could cause problems. They assume we know what we are doing and have a method to our madness. Second, at the first sign of trouble, they will immediately jump in to help – either as a blocker or as a distraction, or to hurry home to get whatever tool we’re missing to get the job done.
- OJT – It amazes me how much the folks here have learned by a seat of their pants education. Most of them have a minimum of a high school education, with a good portion of them having continued on through a technical school or a college degree. The education that they most highly value though, is the one that put them in the fields. They know how to use anything from a hand-held hoe to a combine. They have hitched up a mule to a chisel plow and hooked up a baler to a tractor. They can look at the moon at night and know if it’s right to plant; they can look at the sun in the morning and tell you if the weather is right to harvest. They sometimes can’t hear what you say when you are standing right next to them, but they can hear a strange noise coming from the tractor in the middle of a guinea war. Think of a rural job, and they have probably done it, fixed it, improved it and moved on to the next.
- Love – There is nothing that says ‘love’ like a country dweller. They love you with patience. They love you with food. They love you with excess from their garden. They love you with their ‘been there, done that’ advice. They love you with helping hands. They love you by stepping back and letting you do your thing. They love you by listening. They love you by sharing, including the shirt off their own back. They love you with eggs. They love you with the loan of their cattle trailer, or by bringing their tractor over and plowing your garden, while you fix fence. They love you by never asking if you need help, they just observe and jump in where needed. They even love you with their shotgun. Yep. I still feel sorry for Blake and Jason on that score. They came by one evening to pick up a pig. We were headed home from returning a piece of borrowed equipment, and when Blake called to tell us he was sitting in front of the gate with a trailer. Actually, is had just gotten dark, and they were parked there with only their running lights on. Randy and I both screamed, and our ensuring words were tied in knots. “Call George!” “Blake, if a man with a shotgun…” “Marybeth! Where’s George? Tell him DO NOT SHOOT!” “Oh, Crap. Randy? There’s a man with a shotgun headed this way!” “Blake! Don’t shoot back!” “George! Julie’s on the phone! She says, ‘DON’T SHOOT!’.”
Yep. Love is the best lesson I have learned living in the Rural South. After all, nothing says Love like a neighbor with a shotgun.