We live in the hills, in the farms and woodlands on the flanks of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Some of the earliest agricultural societies, it is said, emerged in the hilly flanks of the fertile valleys of Mesopotamia. Though we live above only one river, not among the two of Mesopotamia, we depend on the the mixed gifts of the Valley and the hills. Mixed gifts, I say. In the Valley resides Civilization, all the lures of convenience and choice. And yet, we left it, fleeing with glad hearts into the woodlands, leaving behind the museums, the transit system, the stage theaters, the promise of a continuous 120v electrical supply, water running at all times and purified in a plant designed to care for the massed peoples, convenient convenience stores, natural gas, town center malls, city sewers, sidewalks, police patrols in the neighborhood, fully staffed fire stations, DSL, street lights, bicycle paths, Burger King on the corner, city buses, and all-night pharmacies.
Of course, all that was available still, but it was a 40-minute drive away.
In exchange, we acquired 20 acres of mixed timber and farmland, a jim-crack house with a roof that would soon be leaking, a 50 year-old tractor, a well with a cantankerous pump, a surround of wobbly wire fences, and an expansive sense of having arrived someplace we wanted to be.
At night the coyotes sang and jabbered from the hilltops. I marvelled to hear their canny, wild arias rising into the dark. And the stars, the stars. We could see stars by the billions and, from the rise in the road, could see also the glow from the lights of Town. Town in the Valley, the valley so low…
At the time we had no more livestock than a handful of hens we’d brought with us. But we had plans. They were only vaguely formed, but we knew it was the country life we had embraced.
On the evening we signed the papers for the place, we took ourselves to dinner at the sole eating establishment in Beavercreek, the Hitch ‘n’ Post. It was a name mysterious in its choice of apostrophes. Even more puzzling was the fact that the reader board out front announced
in a way that made us wonder what we might be served inside. But we celebrated there anyway with dinners of overdone steaks and desserts of ala mode baked goods. The waitress slid into the booth beside us to tot up the bill. I know we grinned like idiots at this charming, small-town gesture of ease and familiarity. On our way out of Beavercreek, for we still lived in Portland then, we passed the Beavercreek Grange Hall, and felt we were certainly country people now.
That was 9 years ago. We were about to start learning some things.
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