Arriving at the rural school late to pick up our sons after a farm parts run to the city, I found a note on the schoolhouse door. “I took the boys home with me,” signed, Mary. This one action epitomizes all that the rural life means to those of us who live it and love it.
No one judged me to be an unfit parent because I was slow getting home; every mother at that school had gone on last minute jaunts for repairs and understood. The boys were taken care of, putting them at ease. They were happy and safe; no permission slips had to be signed in advance. It all worked as it should — neighbors helping neighbors as the need arose.
That happened many years ago. Today it could not happen because that rural school is no more. It is closed. Like a casket after a death.
I went to school there, our sons went to school there, but their children won’t have the opportunity. Try to explain the loss to an average American who has moved every few years and attended several different schools. They don’t get it. Nor can they comprehend that my family has lived in the same county for now six generations. Their circumstances of frequent moves are just as foreign to me as my family remaining in the same county for six generations is to them.
There is a culture gap between those who are accustomed to city life, and the amenities that follow, and rural residents who are satisfied with that status quo. City people are moving to the country, with a noticeable upswing in recent years. The trend is increasing; attribute it to safety concerns, nostalgia, or just wanting a change in quality of life. Can they move to the country and not try to make it like the place they left?
Each faction has its own set of values, grown over years of maturation. Each side knows it has the right answers. But, they can’t both be right when they have opposing views. Both groups are nervous — even though often they do not or cannot express their concerns clearly enough to discuss their differences. One example follows here.
When a rancher sees a dog attacking his baby calves, he can shoot the dog. The law upholds his right. He knows it. His neighbors know it. All of them except his new neighbor, who moved from the city, then turned his dog loose and let him run. The dog’s owner thought the whole world, at least as far as his eyes could see, was a dog run. The rancher warned the neighbor once, but the dog came back into the calving pasture and attacked a calf. The dog got a dose of lead poison. It is all part of the Code of the West. The livestock owner communicated but the new neighbor didn’t hear or didn’t listen. Maybe he thought it was all bluster. It was a hard lesson yet hopefully the neighbor learned that the rancher was a man of his word. ❖