When city people come to our farm the quiet almost scares them. If visitors grew up in the country but now live in a town or city, they comment favorably about the noiseless environment. We appreciate it every day.
What is it about living in the prairie that both pleases and repels? After all, we are part of the prairie; we don’t live on it, we live in it. We — the six generations of my family continuously residing within the borders of the same southwestern South Dakota county — have always worked in production agriculture. A large part of prairie living is quietness.
Those of us accustomed to the silence labor ferociously to protect it. Others, not used to the same silence find it deafening, even frightening, because it is different, new, and uncomfortable — the same reasons some of us are disturbed by unaccustomed noises on occasional forays into cities.
We cannot take the quiet space for granted. We find it impossible to relate how precious it is. We had a heavy haul freight railroad company that wanted to build a new line one-quarter mile from our house and obliterate our tranquil lifestyle. A portion of a report on the railroad project stated there are, “290 noise receptors” along most of the proposed new route. In our rural area, however, the same report gave this number of noise receptors: zero. That’s right. Because there are few of us, it is as if we don’t even exist.
This serenity can only be appreciated through the experience of living in a peaceful place year around, day in and day out. It doesn’t mean absolute quiet. Each farm implement and vehicle has its own sound. Knowing who is driving what on a given day alerts me if it’s time to make coffee or give someone a ride to a different field. Or it may tell me that the crew has arrived for mealtime.
Peaceful doesn’t have to mean solitude. I recently read a book in which the author claimed to have spent five years in solitude on a mountain ranch as a caretaker. It was a nice hook but the deeper I delved into the pages it was obvious the writer was surrounded by help and had friends, relatives and other company who came to the ranch, stayed and worked for extended periods during a great portion of those years of so-called “solitude.” When someone moves to a rural location from a city or good-sized town things are different than what they were used to, but I’m not so sure having a steady stream of guests fulfills the definitions of solitude.
Peaceful may mean that if we hear sounds, they are pleasant to our ears. When Eurasian Collared Doves sing out as they come and go from our yard those are welcome noises. Hearing cows running through the yard in the middle of the night are not. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder yet it might also be said that sounds can be beauty in the ears of the listener. ❖