Jessie Veeder, Published October 19 2013
Coming Home: Rural living’s romantic notions dashed by reality of time on road
I admit these are all wonderful perks of a rural existence, but what never seems to come up in these dreamy notions is that big space between a country home and civilization – and all the time we spend in the car to get anywhere.
As a traveling musician, my car has been the link that gets me to that bigger world. I could write a book about the miles spent behind the wheel and all the sunflower seeds and gas station pit stops that make up every journey, but it wouldn’t be glamorous.
Actually, if I was honest in my attempt to convey weeks spent alone in my Chevy, you would come away knowing things about my diet and mental health that I may or may not be ready to reveal.
But my ranch-kid upbringing prepared me for a future filled with road time. Growing up 30 miles from town, I learned to deal with the miles spent to and from school, friends’ parties, basketball games, or the twice-a-summer trip to the pool.
I came to understand that once I arrived, I was stuck there for a while. There’s no going home for lunch, or to change my clothes if I wore the wrong thing. There’s no hope if, God forbid, I forgot my swimming suit or basketball shoes. There’s no quick refuge for embarrassing situations like ripping the butt out of my pants on the playground or a sudden bout of the stomach flu.
Need my mom? If she’s not there yet, she’s gonna be a while.
So I learned to be prepared. And I guess that’s where I’m coming from in my attempt to explain why I have to scoop the Cheetos, soda cans, extra scarf, muck boots, camera bag, travel mugs, brown banana and four pairs of sunglasses off the passenger seat to make room for an actual passenger.
I carry my life around with me because, well, there’s a lot of time spent between home and away, and you never know when you’re going to need a can koozie, blush brush, old suitcase, extension cord, umbrella, map of Missouri or Elmo doll.
I mean, some kid might need to be entertained. It might get chilly. Somewhere in my journey there could be an impromptu barbeque and I will need my can koozie.
This also explains the sound system. I need it next week, so why bother lugging it back into the house? The same goes for that gear bag, microphone stand and box of CDs.
No, the state of my vehicle is nothing new. In high school my friends would pile into my beautiful 1982 Ford LTD and kick aside extra socks, half-eaten bags of pretzels, towels and a stick or two of deodorant. They may have judged, but unless they too lived in the country, they didn’t know what it was like to discover you’re miles from home with a mild case of body odor.
Once, while in waiting in line at a drive-thru a man actually got out of his car, walked over and knocked on my window simply to marvel at the amount of red dirt caked on my Chevy, guessing with a laugh where I might be from.
Not from here. Not from where there’s a car wash on every corner. Not that a car wash would help anyway.
So I guess I carry that with me, just like the big bag of sunflowers seeds. The miles between point A and point B might not be a perk to a life spent in the hills, but those miles have taught me to find joy in talking back to the radio, admiring the scenery and moving through the world knowing that in my car, I have hairspray and Band-Aids.
Just in case.
How’s that for romantic?
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.