Thursday, November 06, 2008

What I Love About the MidWest

Being an Army brat, I've been lucky enough to travel a lot over the course of my life. So the idea that I need to keep my ears open and my mouth shut to get to know the lay of the land is a familiar one for me. I don't want to dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back about how open-minded I am; but the ability to acclimate myself to unfamiliar surroundings, to not be afraid to expose my own ignorance, and a willingness to accept information and good advice from (what some might consider to be) unlikely sources is something I pride myself on.

The other day I mentioned that I'm really enjoying being out of my comfort zone while I'm out in the hinterlands. So again I find myself in agreement with Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates who says that, " . . . quite of few of us writers . . . would benefit by living somewhere else besides New York or Washington, D.C. I don't think we always understand the diversity of the country. I'm talking beyond race, gender and sexual orientation."

WifeRat is from North Dakota and often accuses me of being a "ruralist" because I grew up with no idea how people who don't live in large metropolitan live their lives. As much as I'm ignorant of rural life, I'm also disdainful of what I had always assumed rural life was all about. I lay the blame for that particular deficiency and prejudice squarely at the feet of the mainstream media. But perhaps more than the media devalues rural life, it usually just ignores it as if there is nothing of value that happens in the derisively named "fly over country."

Living out here you learn interesting stuff, the men and women who live and work on the farms and ranches that provide food for us generally lead interesting and varied lives. They have funny stories to tell and knowledge to share that, while seemingly disconnected from city life, add to life's rich pageant. Just last night I learned how to poach cattle from a neighboring ranch (you cut the brand off and feed it to a very hungry dog), not something I ever plan on doing but something I'm glad I know. My father-in-law was a potato farmer for 35+ years and when we drove to Winnipeg earlier this year he could identify the crops that were growing by the side of the road, where they were in their development cycle, and what the farmer who was growing those crops needed to have a good harvest. I don't know about y'all, but I found the breadth and depth of his knowledge to be nothing short of amazing.

As I reflect more and more on what it is I gain from hearing from about poaching cattle and growing crops, what I find is that it's not so much that I have new facts that I can put to use in my daily life, but that I'm humbled by how little I know about something (food production) that's so important to my life. This revelation about the limits of my own knowledge gives me a humility that will serve me well in all areas of my life.


nylonthread said...

What does your FIL have to say about bees? It's been a little while since it's been in the news, but is he concerned about honeybee die-off? OMG, I know as much as you and probably less about farming and food production, (I've lived in Chicago & DC) but that kind of news FREAKS. ME. OUT.

Hill Rat said...

I dunno what he thinks about the honeybees, I'll have to ask and then post about it.

nylonthread said...

I just recall that this past summer(?) there were beekeepers in California that were going bankrupt because their livelihood is made taking hives from farm to farm across the state and hive after hive would be dead. One person I read about had 85% percent of her hives die. Nobody could explain why, either. You freaked out yet?

We need bees! Heck, I'd volunteer to keep a hive, but don't think my neighbors would appreciate the art of apiary.

nylonthread said...

I know I'm cluttering up your comments with all this boring bee info, but if you need research fodder, Colony Collapse Disorder is what's giving me the creeps.

Knockout Ed said...

Great post HR. I have pretty much the same feelings as you on this. It's one of the main reasons I was excited about moving to STL with my lady. I have lived in NY my whole life except for the never to be remembered 1.5 years I spent in Haiti during & after my birth.

I have never understood people who weren't curious or don't understand how much knowledge there is out. Collectively the human race knows so much yet how much we don't know is probably immeasurable. It's the same things as individuals only much, much more pronounced.

I love learning. I used to think it was just for the sake of it but I have come to see that even when it seems that way it's not. You just haven't yet been in a situation where the knowledge needs to be used yet. If you live a while you most certainly will need it & most likely in a way you never saw coming.