Country Life Vs. City Life?

Country Life Vs. City Life?

Leave it to the mass media to bemoan the decline of New York City, as if things were peachy keen elsewhere. All right, I reckon New York and other cities are on the seedy side of the street: drugs, crime, smut, odd hairdos and that. But when weren't cities dens of iniquity?

Time magazine bolstered its recent cover case against the composting Big Apple with a poll revealing that 59 percent of Gothamites would rather live somewhere else. Sounds authoritative, except that 59 percent of everyone would rather live somewhere else, plus or minus 3 percentage points.

I hail from the country, a good two hours from America`s supposed Heart of Darkness. And I'm here to tell you, it ain't exactly a walk in the park here either. City slickers and my fellow country bumpkins might disagree with me. But hear me out. I've been to both places.

Fact is, I visit New York City regularly, although I know folks hereabouts who consider me exceedingly brave for doing so. OK, once my car was broken into. Had to replace a window. That same month, back in the boondocks, an apple tree fell on my car during a freak windstorm. Stove in the entire driver's side. My insurance company dropped me like a rotten apple.

We have guns in the country too. Lots of guns. You think the mean streets of your city are dangerous? Try walking in the woods during the hunting season near my house, in broad daylight. Before you do, get your affairs in order, don an orange tuxedo, and hope for the best. My neighbor, whom I make a point of being friendly with, has more firepower at his disposal than many rustic police departments. In fact, the burg that borders mine doesn`t even boast a posse. My town, East Haddam, does have two resident state troopers and a handful of constables, but I can't remember the last time I crossed paths with one. You see, this bucolic borough of 6,449 rural characters is nearly twice the size Manhattan Island.

And don't go thinking we don't have crime here in Eden. There was an attempted rape just up the road several years back, and one of my neighbors (I can just barely see the house from here) has had several break-ins. At the end of the road is a lovely state park where devil worshippers and motorcycle gangs are wont to gather.

And the thing about crime in the country is this: It's like the proverbial tree falling in the woods. You can bust a gut hollering for help, but, like as not, there'll be no one within earshot. Fact is, the first thing many refugees from urban blight complain about out in the sticks is the lack of street lights (not that they would serve any purpose). Yup, folks, we got fear here too.

Okeedoke, I'll admit that we do have a few things that you can`t find on Fifth Avenue, like bluebirds. Pretty as you please, they are. I've put up a half-dozen houses for them, and now there are more bluebirds than I can shake a stick at. The pretty birds have an annoying penchant for spying its own reflection in a window, usually my bedroom window, and then proceeding to attack what it takes to be a rival. Bonk!

Flutter, flutter . . . BONK!

The daily ritual starts in late March, around 5:30 a.m., and doesn`t let up for months. There is no discouraging their morning masochism, short of buckshot. These avian alarm clocks are every bit as effective as the dawn dissonance provided by urban garbage haulers.

Speaking of pesky critters, I was jogging the other day in a nearby cornfield when the ridges erupted with the howls of coyotes. I'm talking a pack of coyotes that was way closer to me than I was to my house. My head told me that coyotes dont attack people, especially a friend of animals such as myself. My arrhythmic heart, however, had the last word, and I sprinted home. Heck, Ive barely scratched the surface of this Wild (And Crazy) Kingdom. Think there are a lot of turkeys in the city? Well, one wild and wayward gobbler (Meleagris gallopavo) flew through my neighbor's picture window. I can't wait to hear what his insurance company has to say about that.

His wife also swears she was accosted by an uppity otter that she was trying to shoo away from her ducks. Like me with the coyotes, she beat a hasty retreat. Did you know that there are more deer in Connecticut now than there were when the pilgrims landed? They (the deer, that is) eat everything from garden crops to pricey ornamental shrubs. And every year people die in highway accidents with Bambi.

Have I mentioned floods (garden washes out), droughts (well goes dry), poisonous snakes (timber rattlers and copperheads), rabid animals, bloodsucking ticks and Lyme disease yet?

Look, I'm not saying that I fear for life and limb on a regular basis. I'm not even among the 59 percent that wants to live somewhere else (which isn't to say that I'm above lying to a pollster about that). I just want to make the point that this isn't Mayberry RFD, either. We lummoxes have as much right to complain as urban bellyachers. Sure, cities sometimes reek of week-old garbage. Ever been downwind of a farmer spreading chicken manure? New York City has some serious pollution. And we get pollen up the ying-yang.

So before you urbane types get to crying in your vodka gimlets, walk a mile or two in my clodhoppers. Drive 10 m.p.h. behind a farm vehicle on a windy country road for a dozen miles. Take in a squash festival. Or a quilting bee. Or a tractor pull. Then we`ll talk.