This ranch is twenty rough miles from town. We try not to make that trip any more often than necessary, and take some pride in being relatively self-sufficient.
Neighbors are few and far between. Our water is gravity flow from a spring up the creek. Even the cows drink from tanks fed by springs. We have a freezer full of food, and two refrigerators to accommodate the groceries from infrequent trips to town. There are 350 tons of hay stacked nearby. Diesel and gasoline fill two 300 gallon tanks. Firewood and wild game abound.
But our noble feelings first got jerked up short a week ago when the power was off for the afternoon. Ted had to abandon his construction project as his circular saw no longer worked. The next task we attempted was impossible as it required electricity to run the air compressor. The cordless phones don’t work without power, and the stove is electric. One by one our jobs were canceled because one step or another required electricity.
We do have a generator, but it would have taken more time than it was worth to retrieve it from the calving shed and connect it to our various tools.
This week it was my computer: the hard drive crashed. We quickly learned how tethered we are to that technology.
We couldn’t check email, and we couldn’t check the weather. There was no way to get on-line to look up parts for the baler or search for an engine for the tractor. I couldn’t look at the pictures of the used swather offered by the dealer in Lewistown. My bookkeeping and records are all on the computer, and it grieves me to write checks by hand when I have to re-enter all that information later. The resources available at the touch of the keyboard are almost infinite, yet we couldn’t access any of them. And I couldn’t write for this blog.
After four long days of being disconnected I made it in to Bozeman, where I found a heck of a deal on a new computer. This one was a passé model on clearance, yet much faster than the old one, and with a far bigger screen. It was the cheapest one I could find, yet it has capacity and features that I hadn’t even dream of.
When is that we became so dependent on technology? Do these things really save us effort, or are they just new ways to spend time? People used to visit their neighbors in the evening – now everyone sits home with their computer or their TV.
The wood cookstove is still connected in the old house, and there are a few kerosene lanterns around. The old Maytag washing machine with its gasoline engine stands nearby. The springhouse - that kept food cool with its running water - has dried up, however.
But I’m not interested in going back. The “good ol’ days” may sound romantic to some folks, but I like my hot shower. And I’m certainly not willing to live in the time before anesthetics, analgesics, and antibiotics.
Every era has its joys and sorrows, opportunities and frustrations. We just do the best we can…