Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Non-Glamorous Life

My children have accused me of being a boring person. I like to think I merely give that impression because I listen more than I talk, and I am usually content to be an observer of the world around me. And now I live in a boring place––very rural North Carolina––where nobody seems impressed by authors who didn’t write something practical and useful to their daily lives. For instance my coffee table at this moment has two books sitting on it: a copy of Storey’s Guide To Raising Chickens, and Basic Country Skills. I don’t advertise the fact (to my few neighbors) that I’m an author, because people out here would view making a living writing stories as suspicious behavior. But my new environment is making me a more relaxed, and much more focused, writer.

After fifty-eight years of living in major cities, large or small towns, my wife and I decided we wanted some solitude and more control of our lives. My wife, a proven country girl, and I sold our house in Concord, NC, and moved way out here off a gravel road named for a small clapboard church. It’s a place where most of the roads, that aren't just numbers, are named for churches or schools they run in front of, or harness shops, or are called things like Shortcut Road.

They knew me in town as a fiction author, while out here at the feed and seed store they know me only as “Blue Toyota Highlander” because that is what they put my feed sacks into after I pay for my order. One of the perks of living several miles from the middle of nowhere is that despite my fish-belly-white, chicken legs, I can go around the community in shorts without anyone making “sunglasses” jokes or caring at all. Sometimes, when it’s cool enough, I wear overalls or jeans with missing knees. And I have been honing my carpentry and necessary 4-H skills.

My writing studio is a converted feed storage shed, a 12X12 room (with a covered porch where my three dogs lounge while I work), which despite new oak floors, large double-pane windows, and sheet-rocked and painted walls still smells of sweet feed. Plus I can shoot my guns at stationary targets from the rear deck without a single complaint from neighbors, as they often shoot from their own decks as well. Most late afternoons I get a cold beer, or perhaps a Martini or a single malt, and my wife and I sit on the deck and watch the chickens milling about the yard in search of bugs and young plants. I have snakes: black rats, hog-nose, rough greens, kings, and corn snakes, which have free run of the place since they eat crickets, rats, mice, and poisonous snakes, and are left more or less alone by my dogs. My field is surrounded by thick woods. We raise and eat organic chickens, we buy grass fed beef from the farm next door. We eat fish I catch, fresh produce from our garden, wild hogs I shoot, venison I shoot, and free-range eggs we grow to counteract the effects of all those years of eating food from the shelves of grocery stores. This morning wild turkeys came to the chicken pen and gobbled at the rooster, that cockadoodledooed back at them. My grandson walked right up to them, and they didn't run, just watched him. I took a pictures.

You know you’ve arrived in the country when of your neighbors lists his occupation for the IRS as, “working in the woods”. People out here mind their own business, drive pickup trucks because they need to haul more than booming speakers, work hard all day, and enjoy the simpler things in life. I’m doing my part to fit in.

I can sit at my desk, cruise the Internet and watch all manner of wildlife crossing my field or my driveway. But, best of all, I can commute to the office in my boxer shorts without worrying that anyone will come by unexpectedly. I love my friends, but because it’s just too inconvenient for the vast majority of my city dwelling friends to pop in, it allows me fewer interruptions and longer spells at my desk.


  1. Sounds fabulous! Speaking from SoCal, where the only wildlife we see is marine, seagulls and a few wild parrots, I would love to see a few hens pecking around. Have you posted any pictures of that rooster-turkey standoff? We wanna see 'em!!

  2. You're a lucky man, John. I'd move out of South Florida to be your neighbor in a heartbeat. And to get a gander at those fish-belly-white, chicken legs--or maybe not. :-)

  3. That sounds perfect! You're living my dream, only I'd be in Wisconsin someplace.

  4. i have to tell you that i have enjoyed reading your books very much. they grab you right from the start... and keep going. hope there will be lots more to come.
    nellie versluis