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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Making the case for a life in the boonies

Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Newcomers to Spokane often ask themselves a question.

Why do so many people in our area choose to live way off by themselves, out in the country?

After all, one of the things that makes living in Spokane attractive is that it’s not usually all that hard to get from Point A to Point B here in our right-sized city. So, unless you are a farmer or have roots in an Inland Northwest small town, why voluntarily create a situation where every dental appointment and trip to the store requires an abundance of advance planning and a full tank of gas?

Well, I’ll tell you. These smart people have figured out that if you spend much of your day in close contact with others, you’re apt to be sick all winter – also known as cold and flu season. Let’s face it. People are virus vectors.

More on that in a moment. But first let’s dispense with a few popular theories about why so many people in this area choose to reside in the hinterlands.

Avoid crime: You can certainly make this case. But I’m not sure that’s really the main reason why people live over the river and through the woods.

A Doomsday sociopolitical worldview informed by a belief that, sooner or later, the urban forces of government are coming to confiscate your guns: Yes, there’s no denying those people are out there. The exact numbers can be debated.

Privacy: It’s easy to grasp the appeal of not hearing your neighbors’ chattering diesel pickups and barking hounds or getting away from some Gladys Kravitz types keeping track of your comings and goings. And if you want to prance around outside without benefit of pants or operate a still, well, there’s that, too.

Nature: The sights and sounds of life in the backwoods certainly can be alluring for those who don’t mind the occasional cougar strolling across their property. “Kitty, kitty, kitty!”

The list goes on. But please don’t get the idea I am suggesting that choosing to live a life of solitude out in the country makes you some sort of paranoid nutcake. There are days in Spokane where drivers’ behavior at four-way stops is enough to make me mull joining their ranks.

Still, the longer I live here the more I become convinced that avoiding other people is a health promotion practice more than it is an expression of antisocial leanings or a desire to hear the wind caress the trees.

Oh, of course, I know that living in the boondocks is no guarantee you won’t get sick this winter. If you commute to work at an office in town or have young children who go to school in the petri dish of classroom education, you are not apt to avoid problematic microbes. To say nothing of family gatherings.

But it’s not difficult to understand the appeal of living far away from society’s leading phlegm factories. It offers you at least the illusion of protection against germs. Well, unless you work closely with people who have kids in kindergarten. In that case, you might as well resign yourself to being sick all winter. Even if you think of yourself as a rugged, latter day mountain man.

Are you rooting

for global warming?

Do you want that 1995 movie “Waterworld” to come true?

Of course not. That would be insane. Nevertheless, you do not have to be one of Spokane’s tiresome winter wimps to find yourself imagining there is an upside to warmer temperatures.

I’m thinking specifically of those who have lived through falling on ice or having pipes in the house freeze.

In the former instance, you no doubt have the body-slam incidents branded on your memory.

There you were, minding your own business, walking across the parking lot to your car. One moment life was full of promise. The future beckoned.

Then, in approximately 0.0000001 of a second, you find yourself sprawled on the unforgiving pavement and commencing a stunned body-parts audit to see if you are injured.

It is in that exact moment that even fans of winter can find themselves asking, “Is this any way to live?”

In the case of frozen pipes, circumstances can vary. Sometimes the experience can amount to nothing more than a seasonal inconvenience. On other occasions it can create the sort of mess and subsequent check-writing that makes it all but impossible to not wonder what your plumber will do with himself when he vacations in Maui.

End note

A recent discussion in this space about how sledding has changed over the years prompted my Spokane Valley friend Jim Clanton to suggest kids today are perhaps less daring because of the disappearance of the double-dog dare.

“In the day it was the genesis of much craziness.”

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