Ignorance is Bliss

City people and country people are just not the same. I'm not talking about the city person who moves to the country but still thinks and acts "city." I'm talking about a real, genuine, dyed-in-the-wool country person who lives on the same piece of land his great-great- grandpappy worked.

City people and country people may look the same, have the same morals, and pray to the same god, but beyond that, any similarity ends. They just don't think or act the same.

We moved from Virginia Beach, a large city, to Keysville, Virginia, population 675, in the summer of 1971. We wanted our children to experience the simple life, away from the drugs and pressure of the city. On our first trip to town, we were puzzled to see hundreds of people lined on both sides of the railroad tracks. A high school band was playing "Dixie."

"What's going on?" my husband wanted to know.

"The train's coming!" came the quick reply. "It will be here any minute."

"Is that what people here do for excitement?" I asked my husband uneasily as we drove away. We didn't find out until later that Keysville was the last stop of a large celebration involving a steam-driven train.

City people like their modern conveniences, including hot water and indoor plumbing. One becomes irritated if the bathroom is being used, and people have been known to bang at the door to let you know someone is waiting.

Not so the country person. I complained to Geneva Dix shortly after moving to Keysville about the inconvenience of having to wait a week to have the septic tank installed.

"I do not see how anyone can live without indoor plumbing," I told her.

"Honey," she replies, "I'm seventy-eight years old and never had indoor plumbing in my life. Ernest, my husband, ran water from the pump to the kitchen last year, and I'm just as happy as if I've got good sense."

Most people have access to radio, television, and newspapers. The newspapers overflow with news from all over the world. Editorials make you mad or make you think, and the society section keeps you informed about what is going on in town, the latest styles, and the latest colors.

The Charlotte Gazette, published once a week, was not know for having Pulitzer writers. The society section was the largest section of the paper and was filled with little tidbits, such as: "Dr. and Mrs. Ailsworth motored to Richmond Saturday and went shopping. Afterwards, they dined at the Steak and Ale and then motored home. Another morsel: "Tinky and Inez Dix had out-of-town guests from Farmville (a distance of twenty-five miles) and attended church at Union Grove Baptist. Afterwards they went to Sheldon's Restaurant."

I know why Ava Gabor talked to the pigs in Green Acres. They were probably more interesting and just as informed as the local people. When I mentioned the latest man walking on the moon, Lottie Ledbetter scornfully informed me, "Men walking on the moon! That's silly! It's just a big coverup for all the millions of dollars that have been spent using our tax money. They filmed the whole thing, just like it was a movie. How stupid do they think we really are?"

People in the city are free to marry most anyone they want and not suffer being socially ostracized. Country people have a code all their own. Eunice Chumney almost became a social outcast when she married Car Rautenkrantz, a "foreigner." Carl was from New York, but he might as well have had two heads and been from Mars.

For most people in the city, access to doctors and hospitals is taken for granted. People are free to pick and choose which doctor they want. Country people have a hard time recruiting doctors. Keysville was fortunate in that it had two. Our first appointment was with Dr. Ailsworth. He was an old Army doctor who definitely needed lessons on tact and diplomacy. After the first visit, I wanted someone with Dr. Kildare's bedside manners, so when the time came for another trip to the doctor, I called Dr. Wilson's office.

"Hello, this is Helen Bagley. Is Dr. Wilson in?"

"I answered the phone, didn't I?" came the curt reply.

We quit going to the local doctors when my husband told Dr. Wilson he had to have a urinalysis along with his physical, and she handed him a styrofoam cup that had coffee in it and told him to rinse it out before urinating in it.

Unlike the abundance of private telephone lines in the city, during our first week in Keysville, we were put on an eight-family telephone line. I didn't complain when Mr. Campbell listened in to every call we received. He was old and didn't have much else to do. I didn't complain when I was told it would be a year before we could get a semi-private line. Men were walking on the moon, but progress was slow in Keysville. I did complain when our phone rang constantly for Mr. and Mrs. Whitehead, an elderly couple that had sixteen children who all checked on Mamma and Daddy every day.

Giving directions is another area in which city people and country people differ. In the city, you are told, "Go north for four blocks, take a right, go to the third light, hang a left, go east for seven more blocks, and you can't miss it." I could and often did.

Surprisingly, directions were the one thing I had no trouble with in the country. When I was told to go to an old white house that had a screened front porch that was next to the old oak tree that had been hit by lightning, I was able to drive right to it.

Other differences were evident. Country people live by the almanac. Anything that grows under the ground should be planted on a dark night, while things that grow above the ground should be planted during the light nights. One city woman who moved to Keysville planted more potatoes after learning she had planted by the wrong light. I think she's still giving potatoes away.

City people often stay in bed as long as they can. They hit the snooze button and postpone getting up until the last minute. Country people get at the crack of dawn. Three of my neighbors had been getting up at 6:00 A.M. every morning to see who would be the first to get clothes on the line. It didn't make any difference that they were all in their eighties and had been competing for this dubious distinction for more than sixty years.

Please understand! I truly believe that country people are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Although their way of life is slower than that of most city people, they don't seem to mind. If ignorance is bliss, I know why so many people were happy and content in Keysville. I'm not saying that all country people are ignorant. They just have a different way of looking at things than the people I am used to.

Helen Bagley