My Cowboy Neighbors

23Sep06

I thought to start the whole commentary on rural living I’d comment on an article that the Smithsonian Magazine put out. The title was “Cowboys and Realtors.”

I have more neighbors than most people.

At Christmas the Andersons leave a package every year on our porch. Ken, who became named by the family “Cowboy Ken” looks amazingly like Opie as a grown man. Inside the package are pears, peaches, apples or whatever fruit his small farm has produced that particular year along side of preserves that his wife had canned. They go much faster around here in terms of use than the Smucker’s jelly growing cold and mold in the pantry. My kids love Ms. Anderson’s jelly. Ken never knocks on the door and somehow magically he gets by all my dogs, sneaks up and it feels like we have a real live Santa, with a cowboy hat.  When I think of “Cowboys and Realtors” I think of Ken because he is both. He runs a small farm and for a small price anyone can own some of the best produce that Washington state has to offer he also knows the area well enough to sell you a parcel of land that will amaze you on a daily basis.

Another neighbor is Jerry. Jerry is our closest neighbor and he lives about seven acres away from us. He hunts on the backside of our property and offered to buy the parcel on many occasions. My husband once said to him, “the reason you want to buy that property is because you’d like to see it unchanged is that correct?” Jerry smiled broadly. Joe smiled back and said, “I can promise you nothing will change on this part of the property as long as your alive – unless God Himself does it. So you can stop with the offers.” Jerry shook Joe’s hand and never offered up another dime.

So when the snow gets deeper than ten inches he plows our drive. All winter-long he comes up with a little quad and plows our snow so we can get our cars in and out. He claims he does it because he can’t stand to be retired. Meanwhile, he watches out his back door and when everything is good he takes down a deer and turns it into fifty pounds of hamburger that feeds him and his wife all year long. He likes to add hot pepper to his meat.

He also bring gifts. A berry bush in the summer, a carton of apples in the winter for the children for an afternoon snack and a lot of gardening advice. Once our water pump went out. When your water pump goes out in January, the coldest week of the year, you need to make due. So Joe went to the store and picked up two new garbage cans and filled them up with Jerry’s water. About fifteen minutes after filling the cans Jerry showed up on the front door and offered to pay for our pump. He had talked with his wife he said. We could pay him at fifty dollars a month until it’s paid off he commented. People around here don’t offend others by offering charity. We assured Jerry we had the money for the pump but thank you for the offer.

My comment to Joe was, “wow, I have a huge family and none of them would have offered that.”

Two horses are our neighbors too. They were raised on our property so if there is even a slight change in the fence line they come over and start grazing on our place. We ignore them usually for a couple of hours and this drives our pup insane. I guess maybe Poppy thinks that we’ve moved them in. So eventually Joe pulls out a rope, throws it around the neck of the white mare and leads them back to their home. They belong to our other neighbor. He always shakes Joe’s hand when he returns his horses and offers up the use of his grader. We always decline.

Because here you have two things you can count on; independence and dependence.

What city folk fail to understand is rural people live in a world where independence is considered to be the most valuable asset a man and woman can own. Can you build with a piece of steel a new part for you car – instead of depending on Napa Auto parts? Are you capable of actually sewing pieces of fabric together with a sewing machine to build a blanket that will rival Walmart? With it stay together in the wash? Can you make a berry bush produce in the sandy soil God gave you? Then you’ll fit in fine.

You have to care about ten percent more here. You need to care about another man’s livestock. Here everyone else has to matter a little more than you.

I’ve always felt that Eastern Washington has very little connection to our dysfunctional cousins over in Seattle. We don’t understand them much and I don’t think they understand us. However, if I’m having pie and coffee with those in Montana, Idaho, and yep, even Arkansas we all speak a language that is completely unique to America.

You open a door for a lady irregardless of what feminist say. You tip your hat to a lady irregardless of political correctness. We call the people up the hill, another set of neighbors, “the Russians.” It isn’t an insult or offensive, they are Russian, it is a statement of fact. It is a comment on their recent history and history means quite a bit around here. 

Nature and space allows a person to sort and sift real well priorities.  There is nothing fake about the smile or handshake of anyone around here. It is all very real.

The article mentions the fact that those in Montana do not tell on their neighbors about poaching. Anyone who live a rural life can tell you why that is a fact. They would rather cut off their left pinky then turn in their neighbor for poaching. Over here the state offers you a thousand bucks to snitch on your neighbor – and I have yet to see a man collect.

Grizzlies are an amazing animal and humans are an amazing animals too. During the time of living the rural life I’ve figured out that many people in the city think they have it all figured out. They are the ones concerned about the environment. Nature and the environment is our backyard. I have yet to meet more intense environmentalist than my neighbors.

I watch men spend hours, in thought and action, to make sure that the fish that run down stream manage to get through the dam they built so they can grow a lot bigger in the larger body of water downstream.

I’ve also watched tourists drop dirty diapers in the lake.

I’ve watched my neighbor take a morning walk everyday just to watch birds play in the treetops. Just a moment to listen to the birds sing.

I’ve also watched tourist ride across the lake with music blaring as loud as it can go on a speed boat that is so loud even if it isn’t designed to spook animals, it does.

I don’t have a neighbor around here that owns anything more powerful than a row boat. Their motors don’t slice up fish because having alive fish in the river is beneficial to us and to him.

And yes, almost all of my neighbors pay for their tags, hunt when hunting season opens, even if a nine point buck with a huge trophy rack wanders through their backyard. Because to put them in a little box and say they are hunting for the biggest set of racks is again silly. They are hunting to fill their freezer because life is a lot more expensive here.

I think most city folks would be surprised to find out the real truth.

Me and my neighbors? (Which includes Montana) We are just like the fish, deer, bears and all the other animals around here we are forced to adapt to you. Your laws, your assumptions, your ignorance, these are things we are forced to live by and we will because we have to.

However, I can promise that we’ll never live up to your set of ethics.  We don’t call the cops if the party next door gets rowdy. Instead we visit and drink happily the beer offered us. We shake their hand when they show us their recent kill and thank them if the animal recently killed one of our pups. We don’t live by your ethics in some areas because honestly we can’t. If we did live by your ethics we wouldn’t be able to swim and fish in the lake we live by….

…and neither could you.

p.s. Here is the article if anyone cares to read it; http://www.smithsonianmag.com/issues/2006/august/montana.php

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2 Responses to “My Cowboy Neighbors”

  1. 1 montucky

    What a great post! You described so well what the rural life in the northwest is all about. What you are living is so much like what we have here in western Montana. We are indeed neighbors!

  2. Thanks for your comment & kudos. I had said something silly to my husband – only that your compliment was only shadowed to his when he asked me to marry him. A great compliment thank you. Seems like an exaggeration huh? And it probably is. I appreciate you saying that we are neighbors only because there is something here. Something worth keeping and something that has meaning. To honor your neighbor that should mean something. To care that should also.. Honor has to have meaning. It’s funny. I really do believe that this is an exceptional quality that rural people face and offer, so willingly, and it’s lost in the other worlds. In the cement and steel and the Donald Trump wishes of greater wealth these concepts are lost. Anyway… that’s my opinion. Thank you for visiting.

    Lori


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