Another Day in the Country
Taking a country commute
© Another Day in the Country
Saturday morning, my sister said, “I’m hungry for an Egg McMuffin.”
I chuckled as I climbed into the car and set out on a 68-mile round-trip commute for breakfast.
In the country, commuting is almost mandatory — although it usually is for something more important than an egg sandwich, especially when you have chickens in the backyard.
From Ramona, we commute to get groceries (70-miles round trip) if you want to find anything organic, to go to a movie (80-miles round trip), to get gas (14-miles round trip), to find a pharmacy (24-miles round trip), and to get my hair cut (250-miles round trip).
Living in a small town without population to support local business, you’ve always got to go somewhere.
I remember my mother telling me that the only reason she’d been “out of the county” when she was a kid was because their farm was on the county line between Dickinson and Marion counties.
A trip to “town” was coming to Ramona. When she graduated from country grade school, she “moved into town” during the week to live with her older sister, Bertha, and save the commute.
In the dark days of winter, I sometimes see flashing lights of a school bus gathering up kids in Ramona before daybreak for their commute to school.
The bus winding its way up and down country roads, those children sometimes ride for an hour before they get to school and start their educational pursuit.
Meanwhile, if they have working parents, mom is probably on her way to a job in a larger town. It’s the same everywhere with people on the move.
Whenever I’m in California, I’m amazed (and sometimes horrified) at all the commuters on the road. For someone who is usually in Ramona — where a traffic jam is two parked cars and a dog in the road — you can imagine my amazement at suddenly being stuck in five lanes of gridlock.
“I don’t see this many cars in six months in Ramona,” I tell my daughter.
When she takes me to and from the airport, it’s a 90-mile commute one way, and we’re always gauging the time of day against the traffic flow. This past trip we decided to leave before 5 a.m. to get to an 8 o’clock flight.
“Depends on the traffic,” Jana cautioned.
“Traffic’s picked up on the north end of town,” one of the old-timers in Ramona said when my sister and I first moved back to the country.
He was talking about people like Kink or my Aunt Naomi, who often just climbed into her car and drove around the five blocks of Ramona to see whether anything interesting was happening.
When “those girls from California” arrived, without husbands or proper country skills, traffic did pick up on D Street. “What are they up to now?” Locals would slow down and shake their head.
I’ll tell you what we were “up to.” It was an adventure, and we were definitely in over our heads. We quickly learned that part of country life is commuting somewhere to get supplies you need.
Uncle Hank lent us his “ugly truck,” which was questionable transportation. You could see right through the floorboards to the ground below, so we added another layer of cardboard and took off on back roads.
That old truck got us as far as Clark’s Lumber in Herington, and we made that commute pretty often for supplies and advice.
I used to draw little diagrams to explain what it was we were trying to do since I didn’t always know the proper name for the piece of equipment I was needing.
Come to think of it, I was in there just last week, doing the same thing — still drawing pictures, still needing advice. This time, I was looking for one of those little screw thingamajigs that lets you fasten tubing to a sump pump without proper connections.
One of the things we learned is that you have to make your commute count. We jokingly called it “hunting and gathering,” since who knew when we’d be in town again.
Often we’d end up with little bags of extra things, like two-inch wood screws for repairing decking, or an extra can of window putty, because “you never know when you might need it.”
Our country commutes are absolutely breathtaking. Last week I drove toward Council Grove on my commute to Lawrence for a haircut. Very little traffic on the road. The blue sky overhead filled with fluffy clouds and green, green, green grass shimmering with morning dew as far as your eye could see.
Now that’s a commute I’m happy to live with on another day in the country!