Rural Review

7 Nov

Here’s a chance to catch up on some of our Country Speak, in case we lose you in the middle of a system now and again:

Since understanding our isolated and unique childhood will help you to better understand us, then we had better help you understand some of the terms we throw around.  Understand?

One-Room Schoolhouse:  A misnomer.  Actually we had three rooms.  A bathroom, a porch (where we hung our backpacks and coveralls), and a classroom.  One teacher.  Grades K-6 in our case, although most others were K-8.  Not all grades were represented every year.

Country School:  The collective term for all the one- or two-room schoolhouses in the county.

Coveralls:  One-piece, army green outerwear that we donned in winter weather until the invention of snowpants.  Snowpants changed our lives.  I loved 1983.  If you had snowpants prior to that year please do not tell me about them. IMPORTANT: Coveralls are not to be confused with OVERalls. Overalls are the denim contraptions made famous by railway engineers. Coveralls were made famous by cold farmers and their cold children.

Town School:  Where town kids went to elementary school.  And where the rest of us ended up when we had finished Country School.

Town:  Ainsworth. Between 1400-1800 people depending on the census year.  Ten miles from our house, eight of which were dirt roads (see below.)

Road:  By definition roads are made of dirt.  They are covered in washboards when it is dry, and mud when it is wet.

Washboards: You know those bumpy, metal things on which pioneers washed their calico frocks? Translate that onto dirt. Make the bumps bigger, but just as hard. (This is NOT how we washed our cars.)

Rural Route: The beginning of every address for people living north of town.  (The people south of town had HC addresses.  They were weird.) Recently the state implemented a 911 system that requires actual street names.  It’s a major bummer.  I no longer know where my parents live.

Farmers: Live north of town.  Grow things like corn and pigs.  Wear caps.  Had Rural Route addresses.

Ranchers: Live south of town.  Grow things like hay and cattle.  Wear cowboy hats.  Had HC addresses.

Feed Lots:  Lots and lots and lots and lots of cows in one spot.  That’s why they’re called Lots.

Pick-up:  Not the clever line that Adam Beel used on my sister one  speech trip.  They’re what the rest of the world refers to as a “pick-up truck” or merely a “truck.”

Truck:  Differentiated from a pick-up by at least eight really bigs wheels.  Probably more.  They omit choking diesel fumes and loud metallic rumbles.  They are also responsible for washboards.

Quonset: A large semi-circular building made of corrugated steal.  Useful for storing hog feed, corn seed, trucks, and tractors; providing the only paved surface on which to ride bikes; and sliding down when the snow drifts up the outside.

Cow Tank/Cowboy Swimming Pool:  Either placed under a windmill to hold water for cows at pasture, or placed in our yard for summer water recreation.

Honey Wagon: Our self-imposed public forum ban prevents me from divulging the contents this tank-like contraption.  Know that it’s purpose was to take undisclosed contents from the pits underneath the hogsheds far away from our homestead.  If the wind was from the north it was never far enough.

Butcher Pen: You hope that I’m going to tell you that this is a writing implement that advertises our favorite meat shop.  Sorry.  It was the pen where Dad kept the pigs that, due to some physical deformity, couldn’t go to market.  We would sit on their shed and name them.  Stop it, it wasn’t that sad.

Rolling Coulter:  Pizza Cutter.  We were adults before we learned this is not  what the vast majority of Americans call the cooking utensil they use to slice their deep-dish.  A real Rolling Coulter is a sharp, wheeled object pulled behind a tractor to cultivate fields.  Farm and kitchen implements often crossed paths in our childhood.  Once my mother had me convinced I need to go borrow my uncle’s giant harvesting tractor to finish a recipe.  It said combine . . .

System:  Giant sprinkler.  They spin in a circle around fields which are, not by coincidence, planted in a circle.  Stacy and I will own this one some day:

Irrigation Ditch: There are two seasonal definitions Summer:  Big man-made ditches that bring water hundreds of miles to  fields where it is pumped into systems or brought through little ditches and tubes down the rows of corn.  AND  Fall, Winter and Spring:  nearly empty schoolyard boundaries where students can play during recess out of the sight of their teacher.  Remaining amounts of water are useful for peeing contests and ice skating.

Irrigation Ditch Road:  Roads, usually with two tracks, one for each wheel, that run along irrigation ditches.  Theoretically they are for use only by irrigation district personnel.  Theories-schmeories.

Sandhills:  Think desert dunes covered with scraggly grasses.  So, so gorgeous.

Horizon:  Many of you in the tree-littered parts of the country may have never seen one of these.  It’s where the land and sky meet.  Without trees.  Really, really pretty.

Bromegrass:  A tall golden grass that covers irrigation ditches.  If you pinch your fingers at the base of the seed head and strip them up off the stem you can make “Baby Yucca” plants.  We might have done that a few thousand times as children.  I have an entire essay about bromegrass that won an award in High School.  If my Mom didn’t accidentally throw it away when she was purging floppy disks, I’ll share it with you sometime.

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