It sounds so idyllic, doesn't it? A little piece of land far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. A safe place to raise your kids. Space enough that you don't feel so closed in. A few animals - some fresh eggs, a garden, maybe even some goat's milk.
I get it. I really do. I left the city, moved an hour away up in the mountains, just for that idyllic life. And I wouldn't trade one single second for anything in the world. But there are things you don't think about when your imagination is running wild and you're stalking Zillow for that perfect piece of land. In your head, you see fresh tomatoes and homemade yogurt and acres of pasture for your little ones to run free on. But if you're really thinking you want to live this crazy-beautiful life, there are other things you need to be aware of. Things you need to really consider before you take that leap.
1. Even if you don't know them, everyone knows you. And not only do they know you, but they know exactly where you live, how much you paid for your house, and how many water shares you have. If you're looking for anonymity, you aren't going to find it in a small town. If you've got a secret, they know it and they are talking about it. They know your schedule - when you drive by, they know where you're headed. It's a creepy sort of comforting. But honestly, no matter how much you try to stay out of the loop, you're in it.
2. If you thrive on punctuality, this isn't the place for you. Time is different here. 10:00 could mean 10:00, or it could mean 10:30, or even noon if the cows got out. Life slows down when you live in the country. You're no less busy, but things happen at their own pace and you're not going to be able to control it. It's not that folks are unreliable. It's just that life doesn't revolve around the clock. No one is racing to get from here to there - they know they'll get there when they get there. It's insanely frustrating times, and yet so very calming.
3. You won't know lonely until you've lived way out yonder. Yes, you know two thirds of the people who live within ten miles of you. But folks are busy. They've got work to do, and visiting just doesn't happen as often as anyone would like it to. If you don't have a reason to run to town (which consists of a post office, bank, hardware, and grocery) you might not see another soul for days on end. You better really, really enjoy your own company, or you better get a dog. Or three.
4. Animals are a huge part of life. Cattle drives down main roads are a common occurrence, and you better be perfectly comfortable driving through them, around them, or waiting behind them. Hunting happens. Butchering happens, noise happens, smells happen, births happen. And shit. Lots of shit happens. You're going to drive through it, walk through it, kneel in it, and you will constantly be shoveling it if you have any animals of your own. Best get used to that.
5. There are all kinds of folks out there. Rich folks and poor folks, Classy folks and redneck folks. Drunk folks and teetotalers and friendly folks and cranky ones. And each and every one of them is a part of your town. You don't have to be good friends, but you need to learn to accept them and get used to seeing them around. A friendly hello isn't a bad idea, either.
6. Homeowners associations don't exist. You might buy a real nice place - a beautiful new house on a well-kept piece of land. And you might live right next to a single-wide with six cars up on cinder blocks in the front yard and a burn pile out back bigger than your barn. You aren't going to be able to change your neighbors, or their homes, or the way they choose to live. There aren't any rules out here.
7. If you're looking for a place to go and impress people, this isn't it. If you walk into the hardware store with makeup on, they'll ask what the special occasion is. If you run into a neighbor wearing muck boots and overalls that haven't been washed in two weeks, don't be surprised. There's not much "keeping up with the Joneses" going on here. You're just keeping up with the work. No one cares what you look like. If they love you, they're going to love you whether you're dressed for a day in the big city or you're wearing the same jeans you just helped deliver a calf in. This is a really great place to get over yourself.
8. Your neighbors are going to call you in the middle of the night. They'll realize they've lost a dog at two o'clock in the morning and they want to know if you've seen him. And you're going to call your neighbors in the middle of the night some day, too. You'll have a calf that needs pulled or a stranger in your drive or a horse that's down or maybe it's your dog that's missing. That's what neighbors do. If you aren't okay with helping folks at any hour they might need it, or if you aren't comfortable asking for the help you're going to desperately need, stick to the city where emergency services are available.
9. If you don't care about high school sports, you're going to need to start. When your local girl's basketball team makes it to state, you're going to stalk the town Facebook page for updates and you're going to care deeply and honestly about how they do. You're also going to listen for updates about how your town's 4-H clubs are doing at the county fair, and when one of your local kids wins a state championship archery tournament, you better expect to have tears in your eyes because you're so proud of her. When a local girl carries the American flag at the start of a rodeo, you're going to get goose bumps and a lump in your throat. No, they aren't your kids. You might hardly know them. But you're going to ride the high of their successes and you're going to feel the crush of defeat right along with them. Because in a small town, every single kid matters.
10. You are going to work harder than you have ever imagined. You're going to use muscles you didn't know existed, you're going to cry tears of frustration every day for weeks sometimes, you're going to be filthy and sweaty and so tired you don't think you can stand up for one more minute. You're going to learn how to do things you never thought you'd need to know, and you're going to accomplish tasks you never thought you could. You're going to want to just not work anymore and then realize there's no one else to get it done, and you'll get 'er done. You'll face fears, you'll get hurt, you'll want more than anything to give up and walk away and then you'll suck it up and do it anyway.
This life - idyllic as it is - it's not always picture perfect. It's overwhelming in every sense of the word. If you've only ever lived in the city, it'll be like moving to the moon. Some folks thrive in a place like this. They love it - even every down side there is to it - and wouldn't trade it for the world. Others suffer through it and just aren't ever really happy. In the past four years, I've become stronger and braver and more independent than I ever thought I could. I've also learned to love the people I share this town with - or love to hate them, sometimes - and I've learned that there's no greater value than being a part of a community as tight-knit as ours is. They welcome you with open arms. They help you learn the ropes. And at some point you get to pass on that favor. The satisfaction is incredible... but only if it's something you're capable of truly loving.