Thursday, May 5, 2011
THE VIEW FROM OUT THERE
As we reach into summer, I often go back to days spent living in rural America. And, while I live in St. Pete now, whenever my wife and I refer to home, we always refer to Kansas.
It's a hard thing explaining what makes a man. For many, especially people like my dad, life is simple. You get up, go to work, watch a little television at night and go to bed. There's very little sitting around. Very little feeling sorry for one's self. You start working when you were young and you quit working when your body gives up on you.
Entertainment was trivial as a boy growing up in, and then south of, Zurich. We didn't go to movies- the closest theater was almost 40 miles away- and dinner out meant the Pizza Hut in Plainville, some seven miles away. We rode our bicycles on the sand streets of Zurich, played in the mud and made tunnels in the milo field across the street from our house. When we moved out into the country, we traded riding bicycles for running in the pastures and following creeks choked with sandplum bushes as far as they would take us.
As we grew older, sports came into our lives. I went to school in Damar and Palco, the two towns which made up school district 269, one of the rural school districts for Rooks County. Our choices for sports boiled down to three: Football, basketball and track. In Junior High I competed in all three. I was very good in football, ok in track and terrible at basketball. We had very few kids attending school and football was 6-man...great fun, because as a running back, when I hit the hole I was gone.
High school brought me only football and we were able to field a team big enough to play 8-man with two more on the bench. We had 60 people in our entire high school and either 12 or 15 in my graduating class. I don't rightly remember which number is correct. During this time I also began working after school for a rancher who raised pure-blood Herefords. Best job ever and at times, leaves me wondering if I missed my calling. During the summers I worked for my dad on a pulling unit in the oilfield. Hell. To me, at least. During this period of my life I learned a good night out could be had while drinking a 12-pack of beer with a buddy while driving the country roads made of shale. The little things.
Throughout these years, from my pre-teens and well into my teens, I felt changes coming on, changes which will affect me for the rest of my life. There can be an immense amount of sadness growing up out there. Still, through it all, I could always go run in the pastures, drive the country roads like a maniac or go outside without hearing sirens and cars and my next door neighbor. You could listen to the constant wind and just BE.
My wife and I go back every year. Often, we consider moving back for good. I don't know. You get used to good restaurants, ease of anything you want within a short driving distance. But you can't build up a coyote wagon here and run it in the neighbor's pasture without a worry. Can't drink water from the tap and still have it taste spring-fresh. And nothing's lonelier than a city full of people. Two sides to every coin, as they say.
Yet for all it wasn't back then, and all it still isn't now, Kansas will always be my point of retreat, my home.