Welcome To Missouri. . .
Are You Sure You've Thought This Through?
Which was exactly the same question put to us when we finally made it to Missouri. "Nice to meet you. Welcome! You moved here from where? Why?" We had standard long and short answers worked up which we used in both states, mostly having to do with wanting to get away from the traffic and smog, grown our own food, and generally improve the quality of our lives. When we got tired of those, or when we could tell they just weren't going to satisfy the questioner, we'd answer with an irrefutable, "Why not?"
But as I leaned over into the old cistern (or well, depending on who you talk to around here) on our newly purchased farm and tried to reach another piece of trash, the icy wind whipped across a small patch of exposed skin on my back, and I couldn't help but wonder that same thing myself: Why?
I stood up and pulled down my jacket, looking around the yard as I did so. Absolutely everything was covered with ice. It was the middle of winter, and in typical Missouri fashion, an ice storm had hit on the day we decided to move in. This meant, of course, that it would be next to impossible to get a 17-foot moving truck down the mile and a half of gravel drive to the house, and so we had to postpone our truck reservation. Three times. Fortunately the rental guy was used to this sort of thing, and so our fears of being labeled as "those crazy Californians who can't make up their minds" went unfounded. (There were several other things we were afraid of being labeled by the locals, but more about that another time.)
Anyway, it was our third day on the farm--although we were still sleeping in our rental house 40 miles away--and I was trying to get something done, despite the uncooperative weather. The man from the electric company pulled up just as a blast of swirling wind snatched an empty potato chip bag out of my hand. We both watched it sail across the yard and out into the pasture. He had come to install a new meter, and as he got out of his truck I caught him watching me from the corner of his eye as I slipped and slided around on the solid sheet of ice which, during warmer temperatures, would prove to be a small cement patio.
"Looks like you've got quite a job there," he said, his eyes taking in my ice-caked hair, sniffling red nose, the look of fierce determination on my face. The three giant black plastic trash bags surrounding me attested to the magnitude of my undertaking.
"The previous owners filled this old cistern with garbage. I'm cleaning it out." Since workmen who spend their days visiting peoples' homes have seen crazier things than you or I could even imagine, he didn't appear the least bit fazed by the fact that I was performing this seemingly unimportant task during an ice storm. Or maybe he was just being polite.
After he installed the new meter, he came over to where I was working and explained that the power company would be sending us a payment book, along with instructions on reading the meter.
"We get to read our own meter?" I asked incredulously. This was exciting. I had never heard of such a thing. The only thing I knew about meters was that a man from the power company would walk down our old neighborhood street each month, holding what looked like an oversized pocket calculator, and read our meter from 30 feet away. Then they would send us a bill. But things had changed. Now I would be in complete control of my electric destiny. This was independence! This was what rural living was all about! A sudden exhilarating rush of freedom raced through my half-frozen body.
But my one question had completely given me away. The electric company man now looked at me with a new sense of pity as he saw me in a different light. I was obviously as green as they come. Then it got even worse. I let him into the house as I wrote out a check for the meter deposit. It was only about ten degrees warmer in there than it was outside. My husband had been working on the woodstove (the only source of heat), and there was an awful lot of smoke in the air.
"Has he had any luck getting that thing lit?" the electric man asked, peering through the haze into the living room.
"Oh sure,"I said, trying not to cough. "Didn't we tell you--we're turning this into a smokehouse!" We both laughed as I attempted to cover up the embarrassment.
His business finished, he bid us goodbye and headed out the door. He moved hesitantly, as if he was afraid to leave the two of us alone. Halfway to his truck he turned around and came back. He handed me a scrap of paper and said to call the number on it if we had any problems at all. I figured it was the phone number of the electric company, but it may have actually been his home number. He looked that nervous.
And so the first official visitor to our new home drove away into the storm, the ice cracking and crunching under the tires of his truck. He had been perfectly friendly, but I had a sneaking suspicion he thought we were nuts--and probably wouldn't last a week out here. But I didn't care; I was too astounded by the fact that he was the first person in months who hadn't asked us Why?
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