Country Freedom

The following is a revision of something I wrote for “Living the Country Life” magazine which resulted in my being interviewed for their radio program. A copy of the radio broadcast can be accessed here.

I grew up in a rural community of East Texas. Our place on an acre lot was surrounded by a few other homes. Our lives away from the city were full of many surroundings and activities completely different from city dwellers. We kept cattle on a plot of land half of a mile from the house. Much of my youth was spent hauling hay or running a tractor.

My adult life has taken me to the city, and I’m still bound to it by work and friends. My life includes things from the city I’m not eager to leave behind. But recently my wife and I have moved to the outskirts of the city, on 1.5 acres full of wildlife and tall trees. We designed and built our new cabin to reclaim a little of the simple joys coming from being closer to the nature around us. Many of our neighbors keep horses, and there are cattle and goats nearby. The differences may seem subtle to many, but to me those little differences are huge, and they mean freedom.

I am free to burn a cardboard box in the front yard if I want to get rid of the box or if I just want to watch the fire. I can cut down a tree without applying for a permit from the city planning commission. I can keep a horse or fatten a steer. I may not do these things (except burn an occasional box), but the point is I can do them. Having the freedom to chose from these activities makes a difference my attitude about my life, and the attitudes of my neighbors.

I am not completely free of city trappings. If I put up a billboard next to the street I will hear from the local property owners association. But I don’t mind their existence as they perform functions I’m happy to allow. They will keep a salvage yard from moving in next to my house. Also, I’ve met those guys on the association board, and they aren’t likely to object to much of what I might want to do on my land. They choose to live out here partly for the same reason I do, for the freedom. Cherishing that freedom, they are slow to impose restrictions on their neighbors.

I may startle a deer when I carry the box out of the front door to burn it. My dog can run free and chase the deer, though my wife discourages him from discouraging the deer, and he is getting old enough to be happy with a cool spot on the porch. Lately I’ve been hearing the cackle of a red-headed woodpecker along with the hoot hooting of an owl in the morning. These are more benefits of living in our rural setting, but they are just bonuses. They real reason we love it out here is having the feeling we are free to choose more of the life we want for ourselves. Having the choice may be more important than what choice we make.