Appreciating What We Have

2022 June portrait, WYO Writers

In preparation for moving plants from one flower bed to a another, I first built a dry rock wall around the perimeter. With an electric power pole standing just two vehicle widths from the house I was whining to myself that I wish it wasn’t there. Then I remembered how grateful the original homeowners had to be at even having electricity. I bet the idea of a little inconvenience of a pole in the center of the yard never crossed their minds.

Power came into this rural area before I can remember — just barely. We had a path and an outhouse for the first six years of my life, but we had electricity. It is beyond my comprehension that just one generation before me, rural areas did not often have electricity readily available. Many readers are of the age where they could tell interesting stories about living without electricity and perhaps like my grandparents, they may have had a light plant.

The rest of us notice electricity mostly when we don’t have it due to a storm or some other action. Commonly, homeowners have a drawer or bag containing candles and matches, flashlights and batteries, just in case. When we only had a well for water, it required electricity for use. No power — no water. Now we have a rural water district from which we buy our household water and anytime the power is off, we have to remind ourselves that we usually still have water. That is such a treat to me. I’m sure it is much less of a thrill than it was for the previous generation to have electricity at the flip of a switch, nonetheless, I am grateful.

It may not be common knowledge but cordless telephones do not work when the power is off, though regular telephones generally do. Cell phones work when the battery is charged; that is just another chore in the list of frequent things to remember.

Rural residents often have generators, either portable or tractor powered. Either type requires gasoline or diesel fuel to run. That can present a problem when the farm bulk fuel pumps are powered by electricity, there is no power and the machines run out of fuel. It is sort of a Catch 22. Rural residents are pretty good at being prepared, especially during winter when snow storms can change everything. Having a can of gas or diesel at the ready could get you going if the electricity goes out.

Look around the room and think of the things that wouldn’t work without electrical current. The list is long yet country people know how to get by if need be.

I do not know if there will ever again be such a large forward leap as there was when electricity first came to rural areas yet I am glad every time I flip a switch that have it.

Sanders writes from the ranch in southwest South Dakota. Her internet latchstring is out at

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