I once spent almost a year living in a rural area, in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. I have a love for Appalachia that I cannot even find the words to properly express.
I was staying at my half-sister's house and all I had to do was walk out the back door and I could disappear in one minute. If I walked out the front door, I could be gone like a ghost in five minutes.
I used to walk up near the top of the mountain and sit with my brother-in-law's old, beat-up bolt action .22 rifle and plink to my heart's content. No law enforcement contact from wacked-out, crazed, paranoid, busy-body "neighbors," no SWAT Call-Out, just peace and relaxation.
Being around people who are okay with guns is a wonderful experience. It's the most stupid thing in our urban areas. People being terrified of guns and knives.
My half-sister fixed "spaghetti" one time. I remember there were plenty of leftovers and she put them in this sickly, light-lime green Tupperware container. It must have been the designated "spaghetti" container because it was stained so bad you could never get the reddish coloration out of it. Her idea of "spaghetti" was really interesting. She would fry up some ground beef and then when it was done, she would just dump a jar of the cheapest spaghetti sauce into it. Drain the grease? No way! The cooked ground beef was in a puddle of hot grease and she didn't drain any of it off, just slopped the sauce in there and then cooked the noodles and then dumped the whole skillet full of grease and sauce and meat into the larger pot of spaghetti noodles.
It was enough to make your stomach churn...I asked her another time what we were having for dinner and she said, "Spaghetti." I started feeling sick as soon as she said it. Off to the woods! Two squirrels shot, start a fire, cleaned them and then cooked them right over the fire.
Now, some people would probably call me an "ingrate" because of this...but I don't care. I mean, terrible cooking is terrible cooking. Are you supposed to be grateful for eating that kind of stuff? I mean, this woman was such a terrible cook, she almost fried bacon in lard. Lard was like a food group to her.
Yet...for that short period of time in my life, it was one of the best. Not because of anything she did or did not do, but because of things I was able to do.
The water at the house was so terrible, so sulphurous you could not drink it. When you ran a bath, it, too, made you sick to your stomach because it was like bathing in rotten eggs. So, I had to get used to that, which was no small feat. Being funky with body odor was almost a breath of fresh air compared to that. The water didn't just smell bad, it was really bad when heated by a hot water heater.
We had to go to a spring and fill water jugs for drinking, coffee and everything else that required potable water. Carrying a lot of water long distances is work, man.
Chopping up wood, splitting it, splitting some up fine for kindling, all work but all enjoyable. Going down on the "four-lane" and picking up chunks of coal on the side of the road, the fall-out from passing coal trucks, also enjoyable in its own way. Working to get your water, working to get your heat. All things that everyone should experience in their life.
Eating Rattlesnake that you killed, cooking it over an open fire - priceless!
Lying down in a ramshackle lean-to and watching the sun go down into the trees and then disappear as the mountain blocks it out and feeling the chill settle in on a warm Autumn day - priceless.
I was just outside a few minutes ago at 3:15 and the manmade mountains blocked the wandering sun out in the same way, the chill creeps in, but it's just not the same.
This is what I would like to have in what Ronald Reagan referred to as the sunset of his life.
"I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life, I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."
Only the most optimistic among us, and children, really believe that now. But it was beautiful back in the mid-1990s when he wrote it out. Very eloquent Man, no wonder they called him "The Great Communicator."
A joke that went sour once the media found out about it all bounced off of The Teflon President. On August 11, 1984 - "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes..." We were not on the brink of nuclear war but the Soviets were not too amused by the joke that was never supposed to be recorded. Or...did he intend to do just that? I've oftentimes wondered if he did.
Two years and two months later, almost to the day, Reagan walked out of the summit at Reykjavik, Iceland.
But I digress...
But, for now, I think back to not being able to get a metal five gallon paint bucket to use as a hobo stove like I had back home and I had to settle for a five pound Maxwell House Coffee can instead.
Warm...maybe I will write more tonight...