City or Country Life?

There are millions of people who love city life. Their natural environment is concrete, glass and steel, crowds of people and the mad rush of traffic. I will never understand them any more than they will understand my love of the solitude of being in the woods, fields and on waters.

In the early 1980s I was accepted at several colleges to start work on my first master’s degree. Georgia State was the shortest drive, in distance anyway, so I first went there to register for classes. After three hours of trying to find a place to park and wandering underground from office to office without seeing the sun, I left and headed to West Georgia College.

I parked right in front of the Administration building and walked across shaded sidewalks with grass on both sides to the admissions office. Within an hour I was registered for my first summer quarter classes. The drive home was about 20 miles longer than to Georgia State but took less time due to traffic. It was a much better fit for me.

I have always loved being outside. By the time I was eight years old I knew every foot of our 15-acre farm. But I was not allowed to cross a fence to adjoining properties. When I was eight, I decided to cross the back fence, feeling old enough to explore new worlds.

When I got down to Dearing Branch, the one that flowed under the nearby fence and then through our property too, I found a wonderland. I had the same feelings as Bilbo Baggins when he first went to Rivendell. The branch flowed through a gently sloping valley. There were a few big boulders on a hill on the other side of the branch. Water gurgled in the branch with a sound I like.

Most wonderous was a huge whiteoak tree on the slope. I managed to cross the branch without getting wet and walked to one of those boulders and sat down. The feeling of freedom and awe mixed to make it one of my favorite memories. And I did not get into trouble when I got back home and told my parents.

I still get that sense of freedom and awe when in the woods, and sometimes on the lake if the weather keeps other folks off the water. Heavy fog this time of year is a good time to be alone even on the most crowded lake.

In a December club tournament several years ago, Jackson Lake was extremely foggy. Visibility was about 50 feet. I was back in a cove and enjoying the quiet and solitude the fog emphasized. Then I smelled wood smoke. I love that smell on a cold day on the lake. It almost warms you up.

Although I love the quiet, a haunting jazz song playing at a cabin fit the mood just right. I almost forgot about fishing for a short time. That song, the fog and the wood smoke combined to make me feel that same freedom and wonder I felt as a child.

One sign that shows the difference between city folks and country folks. City folks admire nature but want it controlled. You can see window boxes with flowers and plants in most cities, and well-groomed parks attract many people on nice days.

Have you ever seen a window box in the country with little skyscrapers in it? Are there any parks in the country with small buildings and traffic, to remind us of what being in the city is like? I don’t think so.

The bad thing about city folks wanting to get “back to nature” is they move to the county and try to make it more like the city. Subdivisions of closely packed houses are popular, but they destroy the natural environment.

From 1981 to 1994 I was director of transportation for Pike County Schools, and rode every passable road in Pike County monthly, checking bus routes. The changes were scary

When first started learning the county, there were some small farms, as well as a few big ones, but most of the county was undeveloped. The small farms were mostly people with good jobs in Atlanta. I said every piolet and airline worker wanted 40 acres with a horse. They bought up old farms and lived there, enjoying the natural environment without changing it much.

In the 1980 the school system developed a very good reputation and more and more parents wanted to move to Pike County so their kids could go to good schools. But they brought city life with them. Subdivisions that were natural in no way sprang up, with houses stacked together.

Some bought a few acres and built a house, but quickly started changing nature. They wanted paved roads and cleared most of their property, planting grass and flowers to replace what was there. I can’t blame them for wanting to “prettify” their place, nature is untamed and disorganized.

I have to admit I bought a house with about four acres in a subdivision but left the trees and wild except for a small vegetable garden plot. There were only four houses in the 100-acre subdivision but now there are about 17. When I first moved here, I could zero in my deer rifle in my back yard but don’t do that any longer. There are just too many houses in range.

Even with the development, I can’t see any other houses when the leaves are on the trees. And after they fall the view from my back deck is still natural. And I do shoot squirrels in my yard but use a shotgun and am very carful where my shot will fall.

Enjoy nature, but please don’t try to make it more like a city.