The Authors of Writes of Passage

The Authors of Writes of Passage

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Home, Home on the Range (Guest blogger Carol Cox)

(Welcome back to Carol Cox, who's guest blogging in Judy's stead this month.)

When I tell people I live near a small town, the first question they ask—after the initial pitying glance—is, “How small is it?” Let’s put it this way:

It’s small enough that one of the favorite pastimes of the kids in town is standing on street corners yelling, “Wrong way!” at out-of-towners who don’t read the One Way signs. Small enough that a traffic jam consists of drivers stopping in the middle of the road to visit with friends traveling in the opposite direction. Small enough that mugging is something our kids do in front of a camera.

Our property is located some distance out of town on open range. My dictionary defines “open range” as a large area of grazing land without fences or other barriers, but around here it means you’d better put up a fence if you don’t want cattle grazing in your front yard. So technically, I really do have a home on the range.

It isn’t quite like the old Western song, though. We don’t have any buffalo roaming nearby (although there are three of them penned up at a truck stop along I-40). On the other hand, there’s that line about the deer and the antelope playing . . .

Driving home last week, I rounded a corner and had to brake to avoid an animal standing in the road. While it isn’t unusual to come across one of the local rancher’s cows on this stretch, this time I was face to face with a pair of antelope.

After staring me down for a moment or two, they trotted off a few yards and struck a pose, giving me time to snap this photo.

Scenes like this are one of my favorite parts of country living. As a writer, I love sitting on my front porch with my laptop, watching a mama quail lead her babies across the drive while I’m typing the next chapter of my novel. Or drawing inspiration from one of our 360-degree sunsets. Or enjoying the view of the Black-Eyed Susans I’ve spent years coaxing into bloom.

Living in a rural area does mean there are some tradeoffs. It’s seventeen miles to the nearest supermarket, and fifty miles (one way) to the nearest Wal-Mart, movie theater, or mall. But since we make the drive through some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable, it’s hard to see that as a disadvantage.

City dwellers talk a lot about things like traffic snarls and the current crime rate, but I have stories of my own. Like the one about the killer pumpkin vine. Or the morning the javelina appeared in our back yard. Or the time we found a skunk in our sunroom. And then there’s the day I got locked inside a chicken coop. I feel a little sorry for the city folks. It’s hard to compete with stories like that. And while they’re stuck in traffic amidst the concrete canyons, I’ll be sitting on my front porch staring at the wide, sapphire sky.

Unlike the song, I can’t say that these skies are “not cloudy all day,” but I’d rather look at those puffy cotton balls scudding across a field of blue than sit behind a diesel-belching semi any day.

Home on the range—gotta love it. 



  1. Hi Carol, I really enjoyed reading your description of your "open range" and seeing the photos topped it off perfectly.

    I thought back to when I lived in the far north of South Aus. and the Northern Territory, as part of a travelling dental team for the outback schools.
    We too, lived on cattle stations and enjoyed the magnificent scenery that stretched for miles. We also lived in very small towns, very similar to your description, usually at the one and only hotel.
    The main highway from North to South was unpredictable, depending if the rains came and we could go from being a dust bowl to an oasis! What a contrast that was! The bird life came from nowhere and made the newly created "lakes" their habitat and the animals came in droves!

    Contrary to your antelopes and your skunks we would see our kangaroos, emus and of course our snakes! I could do without the latter, I assure you!
    The howling of our dingo pups at night and various sounds of our nocturnal animals, all added to the atmosphere, that you just don't have in a city.

    I appreciate the fact that you love sitting on your porch, particularly watching the sunset. I used to do the same thing writing letters home. (definitely no computers for me to use in those days!)

    When my children were small, we lived in Alice Springs, a much smaller community then, to what it is now, but they had the benefit of living in a fairly relaxed lifestyle.

    When we eventually moved to the city, we were very fortunate to live in the Hills so our children still had the benefit of that lovely rural atmosphere, yet we were reasonably close to the amenities that city life could offer. It meant driving them down to the train, but that was also an enjoyable trip through the Hills.
    Now, they are doing the same for their children!

    My husband and I still live in the Hills, but istead of the dingos, we have koalas and echidnas at our back door.

    Just for the record, dingos do skulk around and they are scavengers, but if they are pups it is not unheard for them to become somewhat domesticated!

    Carol, thanks for that great description of your "open range", you have "taken me back" to what was a very enjoyable part of my life and I cherish those memories.

    Till next time,


    We were privy to the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets that are only seen in the Outback. Some properties had the

  2. Beautiful land, Carol, and sentiments too! Thanks for sharing with us today! But 50 miles to a Wal-Mart... Hmmmm. :)

  3. Rosie, what a lovely description! Thanks for sharing that with us. (By the way, I'm not partial to snakes, either!)

    Tammy, I have to admit it took a while to get used to being an hour away from Wal-Mart. Let's just say we've gotten very good at planning ahead for those trips to town. : )

  4. Hi Carol,

    Great post, Carol. It was so fun to learn about your world. Beautiful. ;)

  5. Amazing descriptions, Carol. I can picture it in my mind's eye. Of course, I love open spaces, but a 360-degree sunset, I can do without. Being able to see that far in every direction is too much for me. I prefer my mountains and the splendor or grandeur of their beauty. A sunset behind them makes it look like the mountains are on fire.

    With our varying elevation here, we can see storms coming for miles, and we often can see multiple storms all around us. We've got sunshine 300 days a year with amazing skies. It's no wonder the views inspired Katherine Lee Bates to pen the words to America, the Beautiful. :)

    No, I don't live in a small town, and I have 5 Wal-Marts within a 30-mile radius. But the south end of town has a nice down-home feel with peaceful neighborhoods and great neighbors. Grocery store checkout clerks remember you, and our area is nice and cozy.

    Of course, there's always the random bear, mountain lion, or moose who ends up roaming through town after coming off the mountain, but we have antelope on our plains and deer in our back yards. Wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else.

  6. Thanks, Deborah! You have some gorgeous country there in the Flint Hills!

  7. Tiff, it sounds like you have the best of both worlds! I love the idea of city amenities combined with the down-home feel. Both Wal-Mart and wildlife within easy reach--that's hard to beat!

  8. I LOVE this Carol. There are definitely trade offs. Being a city girl--in the biggest city in the country--I sometimes long for the quiet life (although I do think that my personality isn't quite fit for it). One day, my husband and I were in a cab on our way to the airport at 4am. We were headed to visit our sister who lives on 500,000 acres in New Mexico in a community of 25. As we rode in the cab, we looked out at the skyline and realized that there were more people in the top floor of ONE of the hundreds of buildings at 4 am than there were in our sister's entire town. A striking realization. And stories our sister has indeed. Bison! Knife throwing! 4H! Tiny schoolhouses for 4 students! It's all so charming and I do not mean that in the typical condescending way. I say it with a twinge of envy! ;)

  9. Nicci, it's so good to hear from you! Visiting your sister must be like entering another world. 500,000 acres--wow! Reading your post reminded me of how much I've enjoyed visiting large cities. (I haven't made it to yours yet, but maybe someday...) There's so much to see and do, and I love having it all at my fingertips. But I don't think I'd do well there long-term. It's so much fun to see how God has wired each of us in a unique way. And it's great that we can enjoy a change of pace once in a while!

  10. Amen, country sistah! Love my 'out there'country life, too =) Great pictures of the antelope! *lol* mostly we have our roaming cattle here... S'okay - got the gate shut today... though maybe I should let them in to eat all that 'sheep weed' that has grown up in the yard =p

    Fun read, Rosie =)

  11. Glad you liked the antelope, Kathy! Better keep that gate closed to keep those roaming cattle out. : )


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