Op-ed column: Back to basics ain’t so easy

In these days of serious unemployment and longer, harder hours for those lucky enough to still have

In these days of serious unemployment and longer, harder hours for those lucky enough to still have a job, it’s enticing to think of chucking it all for the simpler life.

Once back there in the simpler life, you’ll no longer owe the credit card company a debt equal to the rest of your life. You’ll no longer be embarrassed by owning a sports car whose name you can’t pronounce. You’ll no longer need to rise at dawn to jog through the park; for once back there, the only spare tire you’ll worry about will be the one on your pick-up truck. But going back there, back to the simple life, back to the land that is, is not to be confused with going back to White River Junction for the weekend to visit the folks. It’s much more complicated than that.

Letting go

First you’ll need a yard sale at which you’ll divest yourself of your SONY, VDR, PC, iPod, iPhone, door bolts and hanging plants. With the proceeds of the yard sale, you’ll buy boots — large ugly ones — and warm socks, overalls and a flannel shirt. You’ll stuff the shirt’s pockets with Bull Durham and cigarette papers; you’ll grow a beard and tie a bandanna around your brow to catch your honest sweat.

You will also need a bumper sticker: “Save the farm land” is a good cause these days, outselling “No Nukes” by five to one. But you can also create your own. “I break for garter snakes.” “Have you hugged your wood stove today?” “Bear grease smells good like a he-man should.”

You’ll have to get rid of all your junk food — your Frosted Flakes, your Pop Tarts, white sugar and Diet Coke. Rather, you’ll frequent health food stores, which you will know by their refusal to bag your groceries. You’ll stuff your sprouts in your pockets and carry your curds in your hat. Of course you’ll need a wood pile, an organic garden, a guitar and a supply of folk songs. A folk song is known by the monotonous repetition of these words: Lonely, lost and blowing wind. You and a group of your friends will gather about the wood pile, sing those folk songs (the “Beer Barrel Polka” is not a folk song) and swap stories about how many three-piece suits you used to own. Your barefoot children, Morning Dew and Twilight Peace, will play nearby, while your wife rustles up a bit of raccoon stew.

Naturally, you’ll grow your own vegetables, milk goats, chop up that wood pile, render lard, heave boulders, pull stumps, swamp out the privy and read law — at night by the light of the full moon. You’ll pick the new babies from the cabbage patch still glistening with dew and the wife will be up, stirring a batch of long johns on the back of the wood stove, by mid-afternoon.

Real life

But those who go back to the land are not to be confused with those who already live there. You can easily tell the difference. The natives watch portable SONYs while milking, and have given up Bull Durham because of their health. They put on a shirt and tie before driving the pick-up into town on Friday nights. There are gun racks in the back of those trucks with guns on them, for they do not go dewy-eyed over Thumper when they find him in the broccoli patch.

The locals wear shoes and are clean-shaven. Sprouts are what they plant in the spring. In winter, after holding a lucrative yard sale, at which they unload the wood stove, the butter churn and the wood pile, they go south to play golf, admire the hanging plants in the dining room, and have a relaxing soak in the Jacuzzi.

Barbara DeMille lives in Rensselaerville. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.

Categories: Opinion

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