THE SIMPLE LIFE
"I aint got no dang neighbors that I can see, and if you cant see um, you cant call em neighbors. " At least that was the philosophy of one old coot that I overheard at the Quarter Circle Saloon one night, and Im inclined to agree with him. The Quarter Circle is one of two places to eat in town, and the other place is rumored to have failed a few health inspections, so the locals mostly go there to dance on Saturday night. Of course you can get a good burger at the Dairy King, but they close around 5 or 6 PM on most nights, or earlier if there are no customers, so you never really know if theyre going to be open or not.
The only other alternative for dinner is to go 10 miles down the road to the P.I. where the menu is about as sparse as you can get and still be called a menu. The few items they have are individually listed with each option -- hamburger with chips, hamburger with fries, hamburger with onion rings, hamburger with green chili, cheeseburger with chips, cheeseburger with fries, .... I mainly go there to play pool, although most people go there to drink and pitch horseshoes when the weather permits. They do have a television, so those of us without one go there occasionally just to remind ourselves that we aren't really missin anything.
It is normal to see at least a couple of pickup trucks with horse trailers parked outside the P.I., and there is usually a horse or two waitin patiently in the trailers with cow dogs in the back of the pickups. Most folks go there straight from work. You cant dress down too much at the P.I. or the Quarter Circle. If you have been brandin and doctorin calves all day and want to go out to eat, you just go. I assume most cowboys wash their hands first, but any more than that and you get stared at. And thats pretty much how it is in town. Ill just call it "town," because if I name it, folks might start comin around to see it and spoil it, kinda like they do with national parks and zoos.
Goin to town for me means drivin four miles down a winding dirt mountain road thats barely more than one lane wide and then another 14 miles of "improved" gravel road. On a busy day, you might meet one or two trucks comin the other way during the 30-minute drive. Regardless of whom you meet, you always wave. Occasionally a rancher is moving his cattle down the road to another pasture, and then you just stop and wait. It may take 20 minutes 'cause cows don't move too fast. In fact, the slower you move cows, the faster youll get where youre goin. Tryin to rush them is like tryin to carry too many marbles. Once they're out of the way the road is real messy, but pickups, like their passengers, aren't supposed to be clean. It is impossible to keep one clean unless you don't drive it, and then it still gets dusty in about 24 hours.
Once you are in town, you cant do anything without being seen by someone you know. Everyone knows immediately if the person is an outsider. Spies would never be able to operate here. Besides, theyd have no reason to. I dont think anything of any significance has ever happened in town, but the stories of what does happen are entertaining. As a sign over the bar at the P.I. says: "You dont see much in a small town, but what you hear makes up for it." If it wasnt for the federal highway passing through town, there wouldnt be any need at all for the two policeman. And if they ever arrested anyone, they have to take them to the county seat thirty minutes to the east. Ive never heard of an arrest, but I suppose it has happened.
There is only one traffic light in the whole county, and you have to drive almost an hour to see it. The population density in the county is four people per square mile, thanks to a couple of ski resorts on the East Side of the county where the traffic light is located. If it wasnt for that area, the density wouldnt even be one person per square mile. The school district where I live is very large in order to find enough kids to fill up the schoolhouse. If you drive from one side of the district to the other, it can take an hour and a half. The school bus wont even come up to where I live, so if I had kids, Id have to drive them four miles every day to the closest bus stop. They wont deliver mail out this far either, so I have a mail box in town. Some folks out this way dont even have electricity or phone, so Im one of the more fortunate.
The pace of life here is comfortable. Id say "slow," but that implies that not much is gettin done. Most folks are hard working and barely makin a living. Ranch life is tough, and no one is gettin rich here. There are no "hours" for work. You do what needs to be done and, if it isnt hayin season, you can usually find time to go to church on Sunday. There is a church just down from the P.I. that gets pretty good business on Sundays in spite of the fact that it has no indoor plumbing. The outhouse in back serves all and gives rise to jokes about sittin in a pew. The preacher is a retired rancher who was born and raised in the valley.
People from New York wouldnt believe this kind of place exists except in novels about the old days in the West. And if they did come here, they would go crazy after a few days due to the quiet and lack of entertainment. To see a movie, go to Macdonald's, or buy an appliance you have to drive for more than an hour -- two hours if you wanted to see a play or go to a museum. We only get one radio station, and it plays country music 24 hours a day. It does have CNN news every hour on the hour, but on weekends they dont update it, so if a war broke out on Friday night, wed never know it until Monday morning.
Basically folks entertain themselves by gatherin together for food, drink and conversation. Much of the socializing is work related, with ranchers helpin each other during summer haying season and during calving and brandin in the spring. Nightlife is almost non-existent once the dinner hour is over. After 9 PM there are few folks to be found away from home, and even fewer sober ones. Drinkin, smokin and chewin are no strangers to this area -- both women and men. Not being native to this area, I still havent gotten used to women usin Skol and Copenhagen. Call me a prude, but women with brown smelly teeth dont excite me. One gal I know who is cute as the dickens lost all her teeth and got false ones at age 25. Her new teeth looked real good and she got married shortly there after. Shes since recovered from an operation for skin cancer and now is workin at a feed lot with her husband.
Life is simple here. People are not complicated, and you pretty much get what you see, which often isnt much. I cant remember the last time I saw a women with makeup on, but then I havent been goin to church, so I dont know what happens there. If they do wear makeup to church, it must be for God, because they sure dont wear any for their friends outside of church. And Ive never seen a dress in the Quarter Circle or the PI, not even on Saturday night. Old ladies who live in town wear dresses, but they dont go to the PI or the Quarter Circle. There is a big fat lady workin at the drugstore who always wears a dress, but I dont think she could get into a pair of jeans. If she did, business would drop off dramatically.
The amazing thing about everyone wearin jeans is that there is nowhere in town to buy them. You either have to drive an hour to Wal-Mart, or order them from a catalogue, which many folks do. Also, there is no dry cleaner, but if it isnt made out of cotton or polyester, you dont see it here. Another thing that you cant buy anywhere near here is tack. Everyone has horses, but if you want to buy anything for your horse, you have to order it from a catalogue or drive a couple of hours to the nearest city. There is a grocery store, an auto parts store and two hardware/building supply stores where you can purchase everything from acetylene to bug zappers. And of course there is a leather shop where you can get your boots fixed and a taxidermist where you can get your dog mounted. (A sign inside says, "A Good Taxidermist Will Mount Anything.")
There is not much talk about politics or religion. People talk about ranchin, the weather, rodeos and family. Men talk about women, and women talk about men. Occasionally a local issue will come up for a vote that stirs emotions, but not often. The last issue to be talked about much at all was a proposed law to ban trappin with traps that snap shut and hold their prey. Most everyone here was against that law, but it got passed anyway because there just arent enough voters here to sway the states election results one way or the other. Some folks didnt even know who was runnin for president this year and didnt care. As one rancher put it, "It dont make no difference whos president, cause it aint gonna affect the price of beef."
And that is about as simple as life can get.