It’ll be dark in an hour. I jump in the pickup and start driving aimlessly in the country. After a sweltering hot day, it’s cool. With both windows rolled down, it feels like heaven on earth air conditioning.
Smells of a freshly cut grass, honey suckle patches on fence rows and the scent of distant rain clouds permeate the air. Red dust flies up behind the truck. It envelops the branches of the trees looking like a Picasso painting in the rearview mirror.
A little further down a pickup pulling a trailer is in a field being loaded with hay bales from last week’s cutting. Just past that is a house where a boy rides his bike in a big circle over and over. He finally gathers his courage to take another shot to go airborne off the ramp he made from two 5-gallon buckets and a stiff piece of plywood.
It’s the South. It’s the country. It’s rural living. It’s a culture where most folks like a slower pace of life, and not being crowded in at the gills by neighbors.
It’s where cars, regardless of the time or how busy you are, stop and pull over on the side of the road until a funeral procession passes by out of respect for the living, and the dead. It’s where the stars and lightening bugs are better lights and entertainment than all the man-made bling of Times Square.
It’s where we smile, say howdy, and hold doors open for others out of courtesy. It’s where we tend to talk slower, and draw out our vowels in a melodic country twang.
It’s where the Friday nights of Fall are for football, and those in attendance pledge to the flag, stand for the anthem, and take hats off for the prayer.
It’s where you knock on someone’s front door, then respectfully step off the porch until they answer. It’s where the smoke isn’t from manufacturing, building fires or exhaust fumes, but from fireplaces, bar-b-que grills and gun barrels.
It’s where the Pizza Palace getting new linoleum turns into community news and worthy of a road trip to see. It’s where festivals are named after yams, blueberries and mosquitoes, and where the County Fair is worth attending, if nothing else but to support the local 4H, FFA and VFW by buying a funnel cake, corn dog or sausage on a stick.
Country living is where you get directions to new places by starting at the white framed church, elementary school or the feed store. It’s where rain, or lack of, is always discussed and people know each other at the five and dime store.
It’s where the only traffic jams are from re-construction on a farm to market road, or from a tractor driving slow with flashing lights. It’s where most every man, and about half the women, know exactly what the fish are biting right now at the local lake.
It’s where stringed instruments are the best source of music, and the fiddle reigns as king. It’s where porch sitting is an art and tire swings hang from oak trees.
It’s where bare footed kids play in the yard and at least once, everyone’s stepped on a bee, cockleburs and what the dog did. It’s where one family lives in a mobile home next to another in a two-story brick mansion, but at the fence line they’re equal, and borrow sticks of butter back and forth.
It’s where a man can wear the same pair of blue jeans to church, weddings and a little league game and no one thinks a thing about it. It’s where bonfires are common place and everyone knows not to wander off in the pea patch or bother the bull.
The country is where the pictures of the sunrise and sunsets are taken that people in the city frame and put on their walls. It’s where crickets sing you to sleep at night, the family dog is the home security system, and a rooster is the morning alarm clock.
The country is where 9-1-1 is often called after a problem is handled. It’s where pecan pie, peach cobbler and banana pudding aren’t just desserts, but works of art. It’s where kids eat popsicles in the summer and drink hot chocolate after a hayride in the winter.
It’s where peace, loyalty and maybe even common sense travel the back roads of life. It’s where we go when nothing else seems to make sense. It’s back at grandma’s for sweet tea, home canned pickles on the counter and dirty boots left out by the door.
It’s country living, where we’re born, where we live. It’s where we marry, where we bury, where we work, where we play.
It’s not loud, fast or flashy enough for some, and that’s OK. There’s different strokes for different folks. But then again, you rarely hear about someone from the South retiring and moving up north, or a country boy retiring and moving to the city.
Maybe it’s just something we all need, a sense of freedom, of purpose, a peace.
Yes sir. Yes ma’am.
No matter where you live, maybe it’s time to roll down the windows. Find a long country road and take a slow, easy drive. It’ll be worth the drive!