Living in the boondocks can be very relaxing, but now and then it gets the best of me. Living in the country most of my life, I have been through events that city slickers can only read about. If you are from the country, I’m sure you can relate. If not, you probably won’t believe me, but it’s all true– more or less.
In Missouri, I lived on a 2,000-acre farm with ponds and creeks around every turn. I didn’t even know I had neighbors until the day I decided to burn the grass and weeds off our ditch in the front of the house. Within five minutes of starting the fire, there were pickup trucks everywhere full of neighbors with rakes and shovels. At first I thought they were coming to help me with my garden, which would have been a nice gesture. But they weren’t. They were there to put my fire out, and one guy stayed around long enough to explain just how far it was to the nearest fire station, and also to counsel me on the value of common sense.
There was a pond right behind the house I lived in, just a hundred feet out the back door and down the hill. I cleared a nice path down to the pond and built a dock that stretched far out and above the pond. I did notice it was a might slick after a rain, but the fact that I had just constructed a hillbilly waterslide was never so painful as the rainy first day of our family reunion. The vision of poor Aunt Elaine flying through the air is burned into my memory. She flew over the pond, covered from head to toe with mud, after slipping at the top of the trail.
When I lived in the bluffs near Thomson, Illinois, I would walk the ridge tops most every evening from spring to fall. Over time, I gathered dead wood to build small shelters along the juts of the bluff. I looked for three trees in a group, and just stacked wood around them, making a hole in the south or east end, much like a teepee. It was a great place to get a small nap on a fall afternoon when the wind brought a chill but the sun was still warm.
On one of those particular days, I was napping, with a half eaten apple on one knee and my rifle on the other, getting the much needed rest that an outdoorsman needs now and then. I woke abruptly to the sight of a ten-point buck eating the apple off my knee, quietly so as not to disturb me. I screamed like a girl, the buck took the hat off my head, and as I was feeling a warm, wet sensation running down my leg, I caught a last glimpse of that buck nodding to me, with my hat squarely on his head. It was my favorite hat, too, by the way.
Nowadays I have settled into northern Illinois very nicely. We live in the country, of course, but just a few miles from town. We have an acre or two along side the best neighbor in the world. Neighbor Dean owns the land surrounding our yard, and he loves planting trees and building ponds. No houses, no parking lots– just fields and trees and water. The best part, though, is that my neighbor shares my hillbilly ways, and to that extent we get along great. We continue to carry out and teach the ways of the country folk to any one who will listen. It is our duty, and we take it seriously, to pass these gems along to the next generation of country folk. More than that, where else will they ever learn how to make a hillbilly waterslide in the back yard?