From The Archives - So You Really Want To Live Out In The Country?

This post comes from the Weekend Pundit archives, in this case back in October 2002. I have made a few minor edits, mostly grammatic, though one change was more along the lines of “this sounds awkward so I'll change these three words.” The post below was actually part of a much larger post covering a number of topics, a precursor to my regular Thoughts On A Sunday posts.

This one was near and dear to my heart, dealing with seasonal visitors opining how great it would be to “live out in the country.” The problem is that quite often they don't have a clue what that entails.


Have any of you urban or suburban dwellers out there have ever wondered what it would be like to live out in the country? I hear this quite often from visitors to this state. Usually it’s from someone spending a week or two of their vacation time at the lakes, up in the mountains, at some campground in one of the many forests, or at one of the ski resorts. All they’ve seen or experienced of New Hampshire (or Vermont, Maine, or upstate New York) in the limited time they’re here is what is aimed at the tourist trade.

Many have no concept what it means to live someplace where pizza parlors and Chinese restaurants don’t deliver; where the nearest convenience store might be 20 miles away down a dirt road; where winters can be harsh and deadly; and where you haul your own trash to the dump. There are no Starbucks, Taco Bells, or tofu burgers. The closest thing to a Sak’s Fifth Avenue is the L.L. Bean outlet store in one of the shopping meccas in the heart of tourist country.

Most have never experienced cabin fever after being stuck inside for a week or more because of the brutally cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls in the winter. The same can also be said of mid-spring – the black flies are out in force making any time spent outside uncomfortable to an extreme.

Few are cut out for small town life, where everybody knows your business. For some of us hardy Yankees, it’s no big thing. But for others it can be quite trying. Up here, neighbors watch out for neighbors, even if that neighbor lives on the other side of town.

Some people have trouble with the concept of town meeting, where the residents of the town gather once a year to decide how the town will or will not spend their tax dollars. It can be a very personal thing, town meeting. Though it is local government at its best, people also have to contend with egos, feuds, and the ubiquitous anti-flatlander mentality. Most new folks make the almost fatal mistake their first time speaking at town meeting by starting their remarks with, “Back where I come from….”. Most folks at town meeting could care less about where you come from or what you did there, unless you’re going to use the reference to show how something the town is thinking of doing is a bad idea. Then they might let you get away with it. Maybe.

Something many others moving to the country end up learning the hard way is this: Never piss off the Town Clerk, the Road Agent, or the Police Chief (assuming the town actually has a police department). Getting on their bad side can make living in a small town an extremely uncomfortable and frustrating experience.

One thing anyone wanting to move out to the country will have to get used to is guns. Lot’s of folks around here own guns for hunting, protection, or just plain plinking. By association, they’ll also have to get used to the various hunting seasons. Getting all misty-eyed about the Big Bad Hunters out stalking Bambi so they can carve him in to venison steaks will earn you no points up here. It’s more likely to get you talked about.

And one other thing: You are expected to take responsibility for your own actions. It’s not ‘society’s fault’. It’s not because your mother didn’t breastfeed you. It’s not because you ate too many Twinkies. That kind of pseudo-psychological BS won’t fly out here in the sticks. Folks out in the country don’t have time for it. We’re too busy making a living, raising our kids, working on our homes, and paying our taxes.

If all of that sounds appealing to you, then we’ll welcome you with open arms. Otherwise, don’t even think of moving to any place like this. You’ll hate it.