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Country Life

The cover looked like a lovely place in the city but the magazine was about living in the country. I stood at the rack perplexed, particularly since I had reached for a copy of Hot Rod—I mean Atlantic Monthly—and come back with this.

Splashed on the photo of glistening white wicker were mini headlines about cucumber tea cakes, perking up a room with pillows, carefree entertaining and displaying fine china. Inside were images of rooms so crisp and clean I started to take off my shoes.

No, I’m not going to bash the “asphalites”. My wife and I have a new home in town now, with lovely beige switchplates, so I’m probably on the path to teacakes myself. But nowhere in those tidy pages could I find something that would have helped me in my earlier valley years when the dishwasher, as a friend says, had two legs and the toilet was outside.

Take, for instance, coming home from vacation to your rustic residence to find all the doors barricaded by mice and a tiny list of demands stuck to a window with the last of your peanut butter. What do you do - particularly if the note mentions there are Hantavirus carriers inside?

An entire issue could be dedicated to rodents alone. What’s your next move when the car heater fan purées little Squeaker who crawled in there for a nap? When you’ve spent more on mousetraps than the house is worth is it time to give up? How about the pack rats that play rafter soccer all night then vanish into thin air during the day—do you even dare go into the attic?

I understand that perfect side tables on the sun porch are important, but those living in a homestead hand-me-down with R-1 insulation and rattlesnakes by the door have more pressing needs:

  • If you plan to live another 40 years, how deep should your outhouse hole be?
  • What’s the best way to start a fire in the stove on a 10 below morning - kindling or half a quart of chainsaw gas?
  • In the winter, when your water is frozen, how many washers can you use at once at the laundromat without risk of bodily harm from other customers?

I had already put the magazine back but my brain was creaking with this idea of a country life magazine actually about country life. I don’t mean real country stuff - livestock and tractors and hayfields - those folks already have great publications like Beef Issues Quarterly and Irrigazette. I mean something for the doe-eyed newbies about to find their first black widow under the sink.

Drafty Home Journal?
Snakes and Slivers?
Up the Creek?

There, in the color-stealing department store light, the idea was coming into focus. A young, perplexed couple on the cover next to their imported sedan, hopelessly stuck in March mud. Inside a full page ad for the JacketJail 32 gallon wasp trap. And then the first story of the first issue of the first volume:

Country Roads

If you are new to life in the country you'll soon learn that much of it is actually spent in your vehicle, particularly if you opted for the acreage with the "high, sweeping view". A run to the grocery can take an hour—longer with traffic because of stopping to talk with everyone. If you're invited to dinner in the next drainage a morning start is recommended.

You've probably also discovered that driving the unpaved roads of paradise takes different skills than the city, and different muscle groups. If you and your Acura are just getting started, here are a few tips:

  1. Spring mud doesn't just splatter on your color-matched side molding-it takes control of your vehicle and toys with it like a killer whale with a seal. You'll think you are still actually driving but it's pretty much like the amusement park cars on tracks that kids steer with great resolve. Relax—only about 10% of the damp spots have no perceivable bottom.
  2. Now matter how low rocks in the road look, don't drive over them. Country road rocks have evolved to only 1/4 their actual size. They also can sense when an oil pan or critical suspension part is passing over and then rise up from the earth in a blink, laughing as they do.
  3. If you are on the inside while passing on an unbelievably narrow, winding mountain road with a sheer 1000 foot dropoff on one side, move as far to the right as you can. Then move over another three feet, or until your mirror contacts the cut bank, and proceed as if you are saving the life of the person creeping by you. Keep in mind that your turn on the outside is coming.
  4. Washboard is a kind of a country corrugation caused by quantum forces that only occur at a dirt road's surface. If you have a vehicle that can keep anything resembling a straight line traveling them, how much do you want for that vehicle? Otherwise you're only option is to travel somewhere between 1/2 and one mph. Hopefully you remembered camping gear.

You're probably thinking nobody would ever buy a magazine like this. But how about if it was on paper treated to be one of the best fire starters you can find? Now do you want to buy an ad?


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