The value of a country life

Jacob Brooks considers his rural roots
By Jacob Books
The value of a country life

I suppose it is tough for some to grasp the meaning of rural life. I've noticed several of my friends in Boone seem stupefied when I mention that the nearest WalMart to my home in Alleghany County is around a 30-minute drive away. They seem to be shocked when I note the closest mall is more like 90 minutes away. Often, they respond with, "I don't think I could live like that," or "Aren't you bored all the time?"

Granted, there are not as many activities in the boondocks as there are in the city, but country life is not all that bad.

First of all, I will admit that at a young age I promised myself I would leave rural North Carolina when the opportunity presented itself. I anticipated relocating to a bright lights, big city. I yearned for the adventure and excitement associated with a city. Frankly, I was fed up with the boredom that comes from living far out in the country. I remember constantly complaining to my mother and father: "I'm bored. There isn't anything to do." I loathed living in what I thought to be such a dreary, monotonous area. Following a slow tractor every other day while driving on my way home irritated me to no ever-loving end.

Now that I live in the small city of Boone, I've come to realize my time spent out in the middle of nowhere was well worth it.

One of my favorite childhood memories is when Dad took my brother Josh and me out to the little country store, Guynn's, to get an orange Nehi. Guynn's, in my opinion, is one of those treasures of rural America: a little gas station and store tucked off the side of the road. The old gas pumps without the credit card slot or computer are still there to this day. I can remember riding out to the store with Mama for milk and bread. Guynn and the gang would be in the back playing Rook. I'm sure y'all have an old country store of your own, or at least the memory of one.

Apart from my nostalgic memories, I believe there is a value to the simple way of life in rural America that is clearly getting lost today. A sense of honor, loyalty, hard work, respect and community are ever-present in rural places. I was taught the importance of lending a hand when needed. My father used to clear our neighbors' snow-covered driveways, and many of our neighbors assisted my family when needed. I expect I will never lose the values and morals I learned from living with the people of rural Alleghany County.

While working with the Rural Electric Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., I noticed how people complimented the manners and character of the kids on the tour. The staff at the hotel claimed never to have seen young people act in such a respectful manner. All of these kids were from rural areas across America, a testament to the rural American way of life.

I can remember driving I-40 East heading to Wilmington not long ago. While passing through Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh and all the rest of strip-mall America, I began to notice how homogenous those areas have become. It seems like every town is simply a continuation of the other, all looking the same. You see the same two dozen department stores and two dozen restaurants almost anywhere you go. If it weren't for certain unique geographical structures, everywhere would seem the same.

This is not the case for rural America. It is refreshing to live in a place that doesn't look and feel the same as any other town. Maybe it's not so bad getting stuck behind a tractor every now and then. It gives you time to think and appreciate where you are.

About the Author

Jacob Brooks served as the electric cooperatives’ Youth Leadership Council national spokesman in 2010 and remains active in the annual Youth Tour. He attends Appalachian State University.

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