Sunday, January 29, 2012


There was a time in my life when a trip to town was an eagerly anticipated event.  It only came once or twice a month, and was a real break in the routine. 

While working for wages on a ranch, a guy only got paid once a month, and it was usually at least an hour’s drive to town.  We bought all the food we needed for the next month, and bought clothes with what little was left.  At times I had furs to sell, and the kids always scrounged up pop cans to trade for spending money, and going to town was a big deal.

My life has changed some over the years.  At times I’ve lived closer to town, and for a while I actually lived in small towns.  But my preference has always been to live as far away as I can where it is quiet and peaceful.  Going to town is a necessity – not a pleasure trip.  And especially now with the internet, I can find much of what I want faster, easier, and cheaper on-line.  So once a week is plenty – unless I have a break-down and have to run in for parts.

The county Cattlewomen’s banquet was Thursday night over at Clyde Park, so I left the ranch early enough in the afternoon to accomplish some other business. I needed some 16’ posts and rails to finish up in the calving shed, so I hooked up to the flatbed trailer.

I left the loaded trailer at the postyard and drove on into town.  Next stop was the tire shop to have a couple of flats repaired.  Then the parts store for some oil filters and a battery.  I picked up a mailing envelope at the office supply store, then went up the street to the post office to mail some bills and a book to my daughter in Kentucky.  The accountant was next on the list.  There were some things to pick up at the hardware store and the drug store, then a stop at the grocery store for some fresh fruit and vegetables.  Batteries from the electronics store, a quick stop at the liquor store, and then pick up the repaired tires on the way to the glass shop.  My timing was just right to get me to the social hour just ahead of the banquet.

I understand why people want to live in the country, and I love living where I work.  I don’t have much sympathy, however, for people who want to have a house in the country but have their work and their lives in town.  About 10 years ago I was running a place out of Bozeman for a fellow from Silicon Valley, and I did some work on setting up a special improvement district to pave the last mile of road into the ranch.  During my research on the subject of roads, I came across and interesting statistic: the average suburban family makes four trips to town every day!

It was doing that same research that I found another interesting statistic:  a farmer/rancher receives 60¢ in services on every dollar he pays in taxes, while the suburban homeowners receive $1.60.  Yet these ex-urban country-dwellers are the people who panic when the power goes out or when snow blocks the road. 

I figure that if you can’t handle being marooned at home for a few days, then you don’t have any business living in the country.  It’s MY taxes that paid for that road and the snowplow, and I’m not in any hurry to get to town - I've been there this week already.

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