fresh country air

July 6, 2006

We live in the middle of nowhere. Rolling hills, fields of corn (knee high, right on schedule), working dairy farms full of black and white cows, and hobby farms full of everything else, including emus. The sort of place where I get the odd urge to stand at the top of the hill and sing “Oklahoma”…

Except we live a thousand miles from there, I’ve never actually been, and it’s probably way too hilly and nothing like that at all.

Or maybe spin like Julie Andrews, singing “the hills are alive…”

Except those were definitely mountains she was singing to and we don’t have mountains.

Or the theme from “Green Acres” since really, it looks a lot like those opening shots around here, and we definitely have the “simple life in the country is more complicated than expected” thing pegged.

I was driving #1 son home from swim practice this morning, and we were enjoying the beauty of the day. And I noticed a farmer, spraying his fields with something that looked like water. And after ten years, I still haven’t wised up to the fact that that’s a cue to start holding your breath, RIGHT NOW. Cause it’s never water its

“Gaaaawd, What is that smell?”

And the two of us are now trying to breathe through our mouths, but wondering if air has a taste, because if it does, it might be a good time to just stop breathing all together.

There are a lot of things in the country that need to be gotten rid of, and are allegedly good for crops. Or at least can be spread or sprayed to dissipate harmlessly on vast scenic acres of unused land.

We hope. This is why we get the well checked every couple of years.

Manure spreading season, or septic tank cleaning time can leave this former town girl longing for a visit to NYC or LA, where you can see the air, but at least it has the decency not to pretend to be all clean and then sneak up and whack you when your guard is down.

But nothing compares to the day I watched from my office window as the neighbor across the road set up an irrigator and began pumping something in spinning arcs around the field.

I knew immediately that this was none of the usual smells. This stuff was the sort of thing you expect to see running in Love Canal on a Primetime expose. Nothing that ever came out of cow or man looked like this. It was pink. A fluorescent, toxic waste color. If there’s such a thing as pink Krytonite, I swear I’ve seen it. And our crazy neighbor wasn’t just sprinkling it around the field. He was spraying it into the air like a rotating fountain.

It looked like the Hotel Bellagio on bad acid. It smelled like something banned by the UN. The windows were closed, but the air in my house became instantly unbreathable. My eyes watered, my lungs slammed shut. The cats came running in from outside, damp and with a faint pink glow. I spent the day waiting for them to sprout extra eyes.

We found out later, when the air cleared, that there was nothing to be afraid of. Just beet waste from the canning factory.

Beets? They look like harmless vegetables. But they’re not of this earth.