My love of long car rides was inherited from my father.
He taught me to appreciate the rural landscapes that moved along like a movie best viewed from the passenger-side window of our car. Windows down. No digital dash or GPS. No accordion paper maps. Zero sense of time. Back roads. Sunday drives.
It was not unusual for us to drive two hours for an ice cream cone, or a french fry truck. It was rarely about the destination. It still isn’t. But there was something about the drive through the countryside – the rolling hills, the sprawling farm landscapes and the way the crop fields grew up fast throughout the summer months, watching the golden hay bales stack up in the fields, or measuring the season by the heights of the corn stalks – that made the simple seem sublime.
I remember being fascinated by the look of tractors with massive tires and bug-eyed headlights that had such character, moving at a pace that didn’t seem at all to mind the backlog of cars on the road behind it. Drivers seemed less impatient then. We shared the road with respect for the farmer’s work. We knew this was their road. I was a child though, so maybe I just want to remember it that way.
All I know is, my dad and I wished we could jump in the cab of a tractor and work the gears, bump along in the fields and see the whole farm beyond the wire fences. (I did it once. It was a thrill. Worth it.) Dad and I shared a deep respect for a lifestyle we knew neither of us could manage, and the families who lived it every day.
We often went in search of horse farms, because we loved horses. We would stop along the fence sometimes to pet a few. A farm that had a donkey in the pasture was a bonus. Chickens, ducks, goats, pigs and sheep all made for our field of dreams. I created names for everyone. I loved cows. I was the fool who often “moo-ed” at them as we passed by because I believed they understood me. (The Carpenter would tell you I still do this. Look, I’m a communicator by nature, so why not communicate with nature? Cows get me. He grew up in Seaforth. He does not appreciate cow humour, especially jokes about his prom date. So sensitive.)
Dad and I knew our little town was bursting at the seams with a growth we couldn’t predict, or stop, and we knew that these farms were being pushed further to the brink. I’m grateful for those memories now, because in the two towns that shaped my childhood and adolescence, there are no longer any traces of those farms anymore. Urban sprawl won. And we definitely do not share the roads that widened to send traffic to the mall. Progress is ironic.
This is why I am such a fan of the fall fairs happening throughout Wellington County. Celebrating our rural roots honours the traditions of our communities. Our fairs celebrate our uniqueness and our connection. It’s a history to be proud of, and a future to hold on to. They remind us to value agriculture every day. It’s about sustainability and stewardship. It’s about respect for the land and each other. That’s my Wellington County.
See you at the fair. And I promise not to moo at cows (lie).