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Oddities in Rural Living

Glenwood, NM. What time is it? My cellphone comes on and looks for service without finding it. Thus it won't display the time. Perhaps the first lifestyle adjustment you must make when living in remote towns is turning the clock back to the day when we all wore wristwatches.

Imagine how tired waitresses get (in towns like this) when outsiders make weird dietary requests. One city slicker won't eat meat; another eats nothing but meat. None of them is happy with canned goods off-loaded from the Sysco truck or Little Debbie's fine baked goods, which is all there is to rural cuisine. They must wonder if there is anything that isn't against somebody's food ideology.

James Howard Kunstler would be amazed with places like Glenwood. He sees America as a dispersed and ugly strip-civilization of fast food joints and big boxes. Our suburban nation is based on cheap oil, but rural areas are even worse. It is staggering to consider how much malinvestment there is in America which has no future since the Cheap Oil Era is over, or so he argues.

And yet look around you at rural homes and hobby ranches; look at their full complement of small engine-equipped machinery; look at the monstrous size of the pickup trucks. Somehow life goes on. How do you keep all these engines and vehicles in good repair when the nearest repair shop is 50 miles away?

By doing it yourself? Well sure, in remote rural areas boys know how to change the spark plug on the weed whacker by age 4. But the nearest auto parts store is also over 50 miles away. How can you fix any challenging problem on a vehicle or a house without making multiple trips into auto parts and hardware stores? Also, it used to be easier for a backyard mechanic to effect repairs on vehicles that were purely mechanical. Today you can't fix everything by grabbing for a socket wrench -- it has too many electronic components.

Perhaps, I am underestimating the compensating advantages of remote rural living. For instance, their use of their own land is not hobbled by dozens of meddling, micromanaging zoning laws; so they can have a storage shed  -- or even a barn -- filled with what looks like detritus, but is in fact the stockpile that they draw on to avoid driving to a "parts" store 50 miles away.

Perhaps their daily habits adjust more than I think. They are probably less perfectionist than the city dweller; thus they can distinguish the repairs that can be postponed (to the next grand shopping trip to town for 30 things) from those that absolutely must be solved now. Many of these urgent problems can perhaps be solved temporarily by some inventive improvisation.

But still, there must be an effect of high petroleum prices on "country dream" living. Whenever I've interrogated rural-tanians on this, they deny that the End of Cheap Oil is having a huge effect on them. Kunstler would be disappointed. Perhaps the questioner needs to ask more gently, and not come off as a prosecutor moving in for the kill.

There are other ironies and incongruities in remote rural areas, besides the aforementioned one of trying to base a culture on giant pickup trucks after the End of Cheap Oil. Anyone who is prone to fluttering his eyelashes at the idea of remote country living must be disappointed when he sees the omniscient satellite television dish hanging on the side of buildings which would otherwise be charming and picturesque.

For instance, when I got back on the road last August my first stop was in Mogollon NM, just a few miles from where I am now, in Glenwood. It practically broke my heart to see satellite TV dishes on the quaint old mining buildings up there. After all, if life was such an escapist dream there, why would they need something like television? Why not just live in a normal boring place? The TV would be the same.

It's no secret that remote rural areas have a lot of Bible Christians. And yet they watch satellite television for many hours per day, despite its smut and idiocies assaulting their Christian values during every minute of TV programming and commercials. How can they tolerate this?

Nevertheless it's an observable fact that the "mental" culture of remote rural living is centered around satellite television 6 days per week. On the seventh day the Bible takes precedence. Of course a family of chubby rural-tanians must squeeze into the full-sized pickup truck and drive to the Bible Church, with all the transportation expenses involved.


Unknown said…
Unless they watch the Bible church on their satelite TVs :^)
Maria, you are probably right: that is one way for ruraltanians to adjust to the End of Cheap Oil!
Anonymous said…
Your cellphone won't display the time without i-net hookup.
I recommend a new cell phone.
Anonymous said…
'It's no secret that such places have a lot of Bible Christians."
Anonymous said…
You are one judgmental angry dude.What's up with that ?