I usually post a poem on Wednesdays, but I’ve been distracted this week by our project to run a water line from our newly-drilled well to the house. For ten years my husband and I have lived on top of a limestone ridge and had to haul our water to the house using a tank in the bed of our pickup truck. We are quite water-thrifty, and will continue to be thrifty even now that we have a well.
This is definitely a strange thought for most Americans, and it gets stranger. In addition to hauling our own water, we have our own septic system. That by itself isn’t rare, but because the limestone is nearly impermeable, our septic system is a “wetland”, where nitrogen is removed by cattails and sedges, and the waste water evaporates from a gravel “pond”. We also haul our own trash to a waste transfer station and drive a half hour to reach our grocery store. On the way home, once we turn off the highway, we’re on a bumpy mile-long dirt driveway we maintain ourselves with the help of our one neighbor. I’ve hauled a lot of loads of clay and rocks in my pickup, and battled pot holes and erosion with pickax and shovel. It can get quite treacherous in icy or muddy conditions and there have been times the car can’t make it all the way to the house.
Why would anyone want to live this way? Nothing we do seems strange to our neighbors; this is how many people live in rural southwest New Mexico. The area is poor compared to the rest of America. People do things themselves and there are a lot of do-it-yourself houses, sheds, gardens, and yard art. We’ve chosen this life, but some people are stuck here by poverty, lack of education, and sometimes by their own low expectations.
Rural America has been losing population steadily, and there are good reasons for that. The cities and suburbs have much to offer. I lived on Colorado’s Front Range for twenty-two years where I had museums, theaters, a nice zoo, loads of shopping and (especially) a good job. I’m glad I lived there and now I’m glad to live here.
To be happy in a rural home I think you need to be able to amuse yourself. Of course we have TV and Internet, books and magazines, and I enjoy my “town days” with visits to coffee houses, art galleries, and funky little shops. But I often go all week without seeing another person, and that’s okay. What I do see everyday is the Gila National Forest, right out my door.