Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fear of a Redneck Planet

When my husband and I were first dating I would occasionally make reference to how I someday wanted to live in the woods, or on a farm, or somewhere rural. I imagine that seemed like an idle threat as at the time I lived in an apartment on Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA - a trendy, overpriced urban neighborhood that no country girl in her right mind would live in. I would make these comments over a single, split-shot Americano with a touch of cream from where I sat on a kitchy old couch in the corner of the latest hipster coffee shop while propping my combat boots up on the coffee table covered with periodicals like The Stranger and Eat the State. Later in the evening we'd grab some Thai food and go to a show at Neumos or meet friends at Temple Billiards and be seen with the cool kids, doing cool things, all the while eschewing all those hipsters who tried so hard to be cool.

So, it's not like he wasn't forewarned.

Then I turned forty. Mid-life had set in. I was also been diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis and now have to take a variety of highly toxic medications to that the disease will not permanently cripple me. Suddenly my someday was now. I was not going to wait any longer. It was time to move to the country before I was too old and too crippled to enjoy it. Unfortunately, this had not been my husband's plan and was a shock to his system. But he is rising the occasion and being a trooper. But we both have a lot to learn about life outside the big city.

I started out slow thinking, "Maybe we could move to North Bend." North Bend is a really pretty suburb of Seattle just west of Snoqualmie Pass. It's still fairly rural in it's own suburban way, but it's a half hour from downtown and populated by a lot of tech workers who were tired of the city. But then it got worse, this malady of wanting to live in the woods. I started volunteering for a horse rescue in Monroe, WA and fell in love with that area. These were my people! People who could talk endlessly about horses, gardening, farming and what to do when the Snohomish River floods. They aren't afraid of my pet pitbull and I don't stand out for wearing cowboy boots and no make-up. But Monroe is an hour away from Seattle and populated mostly by farmers and blue collar workers. There are actually quite a few tech. workers who've moved out there too but they haven't opened any scenester-ish coffee houses or pubs yet.

Then a friend who lives up by Monroe gave me her horse, Miss Town Tucker. She had been a national champion in cutting and gone to the national championships a few times in barrel racing. But my friend had a new baby and was retiring from competition and Girlfriend (Miss Town Tucker's nickname) needed to retire too. So, I found a stable in Bothell that I could afford to board her in and fell back into my childhood passion for horses.

Suddenly, I was not fitting in so well in the city. My friends eyes would glaze over as I talked incessantly about my horse and her behavior and the personalities of the other horses at the stable. I wanted everyone to come out and see my horse but some of my friend cringed at the idea of being outside in the mud and the cold and others were actually quite afraid of horses. The responses I got to "I want to move to Monroe" were varied but all in the same sentiment: Why would you move there? It's all a bunch of rednecks?"

Only one friend who live up in Lake Stevens (north of Monroe) seemed to understand. On an afternoon trip to the gun range to go target shooting she said, "You are such a redneck. You are totally Snohomish County. You should really move up here." Guns, horses, living off the grid. You know, I do come from a long line of "rednecks".

My grandmother moved with her twin brothers to Dupuyer, MT when she was sixteen years old when they homesteaded the Moy family land. The house still stand out in the field although no one lives there. You have to drive for a half hour across the prairie where there is no road to get to the house itself. My grandfather on my mother's side was an outdoors man. When my mom was little they lived in a tiny cabin in a logging camp with no running water. My grandfather died before I was born but my mom said his favorite things were animals, the woods and his whiskey. I have a large extended family and many of them grew up in rural areas, raising horses, breeding dogs, living in mobile homes and trailers. I've got redneck in my blood.

I don't like people who are prejudice, uneducated and mean. It doesn't matter if they live in the city or in the country. I don't relate to conservative fundamentalist Christians (or any other fundamentalists of any religion) and I am a bit of a conspiracy theoryist and believe the government is corrupted by money and giant corporations. I thought George W. was a pawn in an attempt to control the world by greedy, rich white men. So, most of my friends think that I would not last a week living in the country with all those backwards, toothless, Bush-lovin' fundamentalists.

But as I've been opening my eyes to the reality outside of "the city is the only place to live where there is culture" I'm starting to see that there are a lot of fundamentalist wackos in the city too. As I've been talking to people out in the country the majority of what I hear is, "I could never live in the city," "Why?" I ask, "Because it's too loud and too crowded. I like having lots of space and being right here with nature." When I talk to people in the city what I hear is, "I could never in the country," "Why?" I ask, "Because there's only rednecks and no culture and nothing to do. I couldn't live around all those weird uneducated, freaky, prejudice, fundamentalist people." When I point out there are people like that in the city to I often hear "But EVERYONE is like that in the country."

I'm starting to see that a good portion of people in the city - at least in Seattle - seem to think that they are "better" than people in the country just because of where they live. Without actually knowing any of the people in "the country". Is this becasue of the media? Is this prejudice stereotype because of movies like "Deliverance"? Or is it just because all us city folks need some way to justify to ourselves why it is better to pay four times as much for our tiny little city homes in a loud, polluted crime-ridden area?

The other thing I hear a lot is "There is nothing for kids to do in the country". What is there for kids to do in the city? Let's see - for teenagers on an average day after school they could go to the library, go to a park, go shopping at a cool store, go hang out at a cool coffee shop or do an extracurricular activity at school. For kids in the country they could go to the library, go to a park, do an extracurricular activity at school, go home and work with their horses or take care of their animals, go to 4-H. The only thing that kids in the country seem to be missing out on is going shopping at hip stores and hanging out in cool coffee shops being part of the "scene". Most of the "cool" stuff to do in Seattle is over-21. And the only thing that makes the activities in Seattle better is that they're "cool". So, if Mtv wanted to make a "real world" show they'd come to Seattle but not to Monroe. Because it is so important that your life be something Mtv would want to make a show about.

I think that living in the city and living in the country can have benefits for children on an equal level if they try to find them. I don't think it at all hurts children to grow up in the country, in fact I know more people who appreciated growing up in the country than did growing up in the city. So, it surprises me how many of my city friends put down my decision to move the country because of a judgment and prejudice they have, while all the while complaining about how prejudice and judgmental people in the country are.

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