Sunday, June 03, 2007


#62 - The Town Mouse & the Country Mouse

How about just: town & country. Are you a city person or a country person or both or neither? Feelings about town and country?


Like the John Denver song says; "Thank God I'm a country Boy."

No ifs ands or buts about it, I'm a country boy. I grew up in rural America, in the only"city" in the biggest county in New York State. The population of that city at the time was approximately 14,000. It was not a major metropolis by any stretch. The city bordered Canada via the St. Lawrence River and was a mere 50 mile drive away from the capital of Canada...Ottawa. The population of Ottawa is approximately 750, 000. So I grew up in the best of all possible worlds. I lived in an extremely rural farming community, but was close enough to a major city to enjoy the amenities it could offer.

I left this idyllic childhood incubator at the tender age of 17 to join the Navy and see the world. For the next thirteen years I did in fact see the world I spent time in or lived in the following cities: Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Danang RSVN, and Norfolk Va., New York City, Albany, NY., and Pusan S. Korea. I lived in NYC for a little more than a year while in nursing school. It's fair to say that I gave big cities a reasonable try. When it came time to raise a family though there was no debate...Small town rural America won, hands down.

We moved to a village in New York State just 10 miles from the city I grew up in. The population of the village is about 500. I know by name nearly all of these people.

<<>>

{Five hours later}

Because I'm a country mouse, I took some time off from this story to a. weed and spade 1/3 of my vegetable garden (I'd have done it all but I got too tired and hot.) b. to finish reading Anne Fadiman's delicious book "Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader". Which, my friends, is the most enjoyable read I've had...cover to cover... in a very long time! c. Eat lunch. d. Take a nap. And e. Take many photographs of nature.

Now, that's not to say that these things couldn't be done if I lived in a city. But, the laid-back take it slow and easy style is much more attributable to the country life than city life. That is exactly the way I like it.

I've enjoyed living in every city I've inhabited. (Danang was questionable at times.) The rent in NYC was exorbitant but everything else was good-to-go. Everything imaginable is available twenty-four hours a day and usually within walking distantance . Entertainment of any and every sort was just around the corner, and I didn't require a car because of municipal transportation.

Mentioning the rent In the Big Apple before it was called the big apple reminds me of a story. At the time, my wife and I were both nursing students at Elmhurst City Hospital. We rented an upstairs apartment in a Queen's brownstone from Mrs. Valverde. The rent was $125.00 a month. Our total income consisted of my monthly $175.00 GI Bill check. You do the math. Oh, let me add here that my wife was also pregnant with our first child. Our fellow nursing students would smuggle bread and peanut butter from the nurse's residence for us. We subsisted on breakfast and lunch 5 days a week at the hospital cafeteria, and Ragu sauce and shells everynight for supper. A few steps from our front door towards Northern Blvd. there was a milk machine, similar to today's soda machines, where you could buy a quart of milk for a quarter. One afternoon my wife put our last quarter in the slot, no quart of milk was ejected. She cried .
[The stories from that year in NYC would make an readable book.]

In all honesty, all of my city experiences were fun and sometimes exciting. I never experienced any of the "bad" things big cities are noted for (with the exception of smog.)


Settledown and raise a family time came about in the early to mid 1970s. Serendipitously a job came available, for my specialty, in my hometown. We wanted to raise our kids in a community environment where everyone knew us and the children and the whole community helped raise each others children. I believed in making it as difficult as possible for my children to get into mischief without my finding out about it. I believed in holding my kids responsible for their actions. We bought a home in the village where my father spent his first thirteen years...the village that we still reside in. We had a vegetable garden big enough to raise most all of our own vegetables. We raised chickens (yes, in the village) for eggs and meat, and rabbits for meat. We supplemented our fuel oil furnace with wood which we cut and burned in a wood stove. Remember, this was during the first oil price crisis.

Our children attended and graduated from a K-12 school (just one block behind our house) with a total enrollment of 500 pupils. They each played in the band, played sports; each one played on a small school championship teams that went on to play for State championships. They were in scouts, had after school jobs. and did chores around the house. All three of my children currently reside in big cities. They know that milk comes from black and white, four legged, four titted animals. They know that animals are butchered to put meat in the supermarket. they know that eggs come out the same orifice as chicken shit. And they know how much work somebody did to put veggies on their plates. They got into their share of mischief, and I didn't find out some of it I'm sure. Son J. said to me not too long ago; "You caught me most of the time when I broke the rules, but not everytime!" I asked what I'd missed. He continued. "'ll tell you when I think you're old enough to hear it." Hehe.

They know where to find fresh air and clean water. They know the value of friendships, and neighborliness.

Raising a family in the country was the right thing for us. Others have done just as well in the city.

If you've been able to read this far....STOP! It's time for supper...and then your homework. ;-)

for Michelle, relII, and Jay!
;-)

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19 Comments:

Blogger Rowan said...

Great read Rel and I'm with you - I'm definitely a country mouse! Cities are fine for short visits but I like fields and country lanes within walking distance of where I live. How awful to put your last quarter in and not even get the milk in return. No wonder poor D cried! Better write that book - I'd love to read it:)

5:19 PM  
Blogger Chipper said...

I am a city girl but my favorite summer time memories ( which is most my childhood)all occured in the country. There is something very relaxing and refreshing about being in the country.

I can't wait for the book !! :)

7:31 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

You are a delight to read Rel! I'm with you, a Libra and a country girl. :) XXOO

7:36 PM  
Blogger Puss-in-Boots said...

Dear Rel

Thank you so much for your message of support. The grieving process has to be got through, I know, but I also know I'll get there...eventually.

Thank you again, Rel

Hug

4:27 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

Nothing wrong with "country"...it is where I was raised and educated...and throughout the years, I've lived in the country areas. I'm not one for city living any more.

And on the subject of John Denver...my late brother was a huge Denver fan...we went to see him perform in Townsville a couple of years before his fatal air crash. He was absolutely magnificent. And...we got to meet him which was a big thrill. Denver, in person, was a very good-looking man.

4:28 AM  
Blogger gautami tripathy said...

That was a very enjoyable read, rel! It was good to read about part of the world. I am a city girl. I thrive in the rush hours!

I too am a great fan of John Denver.

Thanks for this very beautiful post.

9:05 AM  
Blogger PEA said...

Wonderful post my friend...like you, I much prefer the country. I was born and raised in Sudbury which is considered a city but with just over 90,000 population, it's nothing like the big metropolitan cities like Toronto. I like visiting Toronto but I could never live there! Since I was 14 years old I've lived on the outskirts of Sudbury where it's all farms and very small communities and this is where I'm happiest:-) xox

10:22 AM  
Blogger sundaycynce said...

What a delightful read, Rel, from beginning to end!! It really sounds as if you've had a wonderful life, which actually underscores the truth of the phrase "Life is what you make of it." It also is much related to the attitude of the liver (the one living it, not the bodily organ); and you, my friend, seem to be a wonderfully positive person! It also seems to me that you gave your children a precious and enviable upbringing.

I can actually identify with some of your early experiences. The first month after JR & I were married, his military pay was $85.00 and the rent on our trailer was $87.50. He says it was the other way around. But, hey, $2.50 one way or the other is not enough for anyone to live on for a month. We used to go dumpster diving on the base for old C-rations. I don't know who threw them out but we could find lots of unopened cans. We seldom got hungry enough to eat the ham and lima beans, but some of the others were quite tasty; I loved the cookies, and some of the crackers--did they come with canned peanut butter or cheese? It's been a long time!! Fortunately, before the second month, I found a teaching job, actually on base--nice work. And in a couple of months they finally got the paperwork straight to pay him an allotment for me and his jump pay, retroactive. Anyway, I understand crying about the milk!! I would have too!!

I almost forgot the 2nd part of my original response which is that I absolutely agree that "the best of all possible worlds" is when you can live in a small place, where everyone knows you, on some property where you can grow what you want and have a bit of friendly privacy, but close enough to a large city to have access to all the accompaning amenities.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Kat said...

If I had my choice I'd never plant roots, but bounce between the country, the sea and the city like a rubber ball. There's something I like in every area.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous KG said...

Rel — I really enjoyed reading this. There is so much care and love behind the lives you thoughtfully set up for your children. I loved every detail of this wonderful place and life. :)

Though many raise children well in the city, I think it can be really tough (at least in NYC). There are so many distractions, so many things that children see that they really shouldn't yet, and then they need an explanation for it. I think this makes them grow up faster than they should.

11:05 PM  
Blogger jellyhead said...

Hi there Country Mouse!

This was such a lovely post - I was so interested to read how you grew up, and how you raised your children.

I'm afraid that although I love visiting the country, I'm city mouse myself, having always lived in the city. Maybe one day I'll be converted and leave the smog behind....!

2:57 AM  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

Great to read rel and to be educated once again about the real America. The rest of the world can get a wrong impression of America. it seems to be all cities and freeways and modern consumerism ... but you actually reared chickens! Kind of like 'Green Acres'!?

6:03 AM  
Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

I live in a city but its a city that's laid back and full of green places. I don't think I could cope with a big city. Here we get the best of most things.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Catch said...

This could be my own story Rel. I have raised my kids in the same town where I grew up. I know practically every person in this town and if you came here and ask for me by name they would say..oh yea...she lives on such and such street. When I go to the post office or the store it takes me forever because I run into so many people I know and have to chat with all of them. Its small town and I wouldnt want to live anywhere else. There is something quite homey and comfortable about this town. I lived in Ft Bragg, N Carolina for a year so I have had a taste of a bigger place...but I prefer a town where everybody knows your name. Good night John boy!

12:29 PM  
Blogger Charmed said...

Thank God I'm a country girl, and lovin' every minute of it!! :-)

1:19 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

It's a good to have some place to settle, but many adventures around the world!

2:04 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Fascinating stuff, Rel! Very interesting changes in your life.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Marcia (MeeAugraphie) said...

Rel, your story brought emotions to the surface, whether the story, the weather, the fact that we have thoughts of moving to a tiny town after years of suburbs, or because my husbands vacation is over, or because it just sounded perfect, probably all. I loved the way you told it with interruptions and homework reminders.

6:46 PM  
Blogger M said...

That was a great post. In many ways you have had such a blessed life. Goes to show that when the machine won't give you milk and you no longer have money, hang on because good fortune is around the corner. You just have to keep looking for it and working for it.

I knew a girl in collge who live in an apartment building in NYC and she had more neighborliness and trust than I did and I grew up in the heartland. So, I think you make a good point that the city works for some families just fine and the country works for other families. It all depends on the cirmcumstances and the people.

Here in Indiana even the biggest cities still have cornfields within the city limits, so it we do have the best of both worlds.

9:14 AM  

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