A few times in my life, like after a heartbreaking divorce or recuperating after a deadly stroke, for example, I’ve gone to hide in the secluded sticks for a few months, with family and friends deep in the Oklahoma country.
Even though I grew up on a farm in a small Texas town, it seems that fifteen or twenty years of unadulterated city living has made me forget what that life was all about, so to be thrown back in it is usually a cattle-prod shock for the first few days. That, usually, is followed by an excitable new lease on country living that, after a few months, somehow turns to boredom, piquing that unshakable city-bred feeling that you are always missing out on whatever is going on.
It also helps when you don’t have to drive an hour just to get to a Wal-Mart, but let’s not argue about that right now.
Whenever you first hit the spacious countryside, your welcoming banner to small town living comes in the form of a variety of pastoral smells, from dead skunks on the road to live manure in the fields; get accustomed to either the haughty stench or learn to breathe through your mouth. I, personally, taught myself to inhale deep and exhale proudly, regardless of the agrarian funk. I could teach you if you want.
Now, to be fair though, in addition to the natural farmland bouquet, there might also be a hint of a strange chemical scent wafting about, and that, probably, is methamphetamines. Cookers, as they’re called, will hide out in their tree-buried RVs and dilapidated shacks, brewing their moneymaking crank, far from the pervasive eyes of law-enforcement. It too, if you’ve got the constitution, will become an essence you’ll get used to, maybe even love. But don’t love it too much though.
But, if the Oklahoma campestral lands lives up to a stereotype, it has to be the oversaturation of cows and horses, everywhere you look, for miles on end. Most bovine are cud-chewing beasts that usually deserve a cow-tip and well-earned spot on your Corning Ware, while horses, however, are a lot like dogs, with their own wickedly bawdy sense of humor that allows their unique personalities to burn through. We tend not to eat them.
And, speaking of dogs, people abandon them by the dozen out in agricultural settings, so don’t be surprised if eventually you become the proud owner of five or six throwaway mutts that just hang out on your property, looking for scraps of whatever food you got in-between disappearing for days on end. If you’re lucky, some return with a gut full of puppies.
Many times, for a little rest and relaxation, you might think there’s nothing like going down to the lone Dollar General in town to grab a pop and shoot the bull with folks. There’s the hateful old man who sits out front, the hateful clerk who ignores you and, best of all, that one hateful young Turk out in the parking lot with spider-web tattoos and an SS logo on his truck, typically looking for some city-folk trouble.
If you can avoid all these country creeps, more power to you. But if you feel like you got to take a brave stand, well, I’ll see you in Heaven if you make the list.
Truth be told, however, if you can put your red state tendencies in check for long enough, there truly are plenty of opportunities to have a good time. For example, in these small Oklahoma towns, every weekend, a ladies auxiliary at a Baptist church or maybe the volunteer fire department all get together for an old school fish fry or, even better, if you got some Natives living there, enjoy an Indian taco dinner. Usually it’ll run you about five bucks and free refills on your Flavor-Aid, if you’re charming.
Sadly, I usually have to pay another quarter.
But, the one thing you can do in the country that you really can’t do here: find a field as wide as the horizon, and watch one of those mosquito-drenched Oklahoma sunsets. And, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself a bucolic boy or a georgic girl to spend time with while you’re in the country, the Oklahoma sunrise as well. It ain’t all bad.
Except for rattlesnakes. Look out for rattlesnakes.