By Kyla Barcus – Public Relations Manager, United Country Real Estate
As a child, I wandered the high grasses of my family’s 40-acre property, my imagination leading the way. Stacks of hay bales were igloos in the winter, and an oval patch of ground surrounded by trees was my hidden city. I was a country kid.
During my teenage years, I begged my parents on a regular basis to move to town on the grounds that, “There’s absolutely no point in living out in the middle of nowhere when you don’t farm anything or even own a cow.” I was certain that our long dirt road was the only thing standing between me and ultimate happiness.
As much as I complained, I knew deep down that I was lucky. There was freedom in the space and an opportunity for discovery each and every day.
My siblings and I became off-road bicycle pros at early ages, mastering the art of riding through gravel, potholes and mud mounds; never the flat, smooth sidewalks the town kids navigated. Looking back, I think that like many other parts of our country life, those bumps and puddles made us stronger and braver, ready to face and conquer obstacles, and never afraid to get a little dirt on our hand in the process.
We went fishing in our own backyard and learned to drive four-wheelers long before cars were on our minds. Appropriately, I spent one summer pretending to be a real estate agent, after my dad’s Realtor® friend gave me his old briefcase and outdated listing forms. I drove “prospective buyers” around on my four-wheeler, and by the end of that summer, I had sold every “lot” on our property to a variety of imaginary buyers.
In the summer months, my mom released us to the great outdoors by 8:00 a.m. and only called us back inside for lunch and at dark, so we found entertainment by using our imaginations. My brother regularly played “bull rider” with the help of our large propane tank. It, of course, was the bull — a natural fit for riding. Why else would it have a handle on the end? It was the toughest rodeo bull in the state, and with a pretend stopwatch, we would cheer as my brother conquered the prestigious eight seconds.
The space provided by 40-acres also meant that there was plenty of room for ‘toys.’ My dad was an avid auction-goer, bringing home the best treasures imaginable. When I was nine, he returned from an auction and unloaded a motorized miniature Model T, like those driven by clowns in local parades. It held two children, or one dad. As you can imagine, we fought like cats and dogs for a turn, and it wasn’t long before the car disappeared. For months we tried to solve the mystery of the stolen car, all the while wondering why our parents weren’t at all concerned about the theft. We eventually realized that the disappearance might have been prompted by one too many brawls over who got the next turn.
I’m happy to report that the car was replaced by something even better! That something also held four passengers … room for all of us at once. It was a used coin ride that probably sat outside a grocery store in its glory days. It looked like a huge blue cereal bowl painted with comets and asteroids. To our astonishment, we didn’t have to put money in the coin slot to make it start, nor was it timed. So, all four of us climbed inside and hit the go button. And go it did, until one of us scrambled to push stop and we all stumbled nauseously over the side to lie on the concrete below. The effects of the spinning and bobbing lasted at least 10 dizzy minutes. Shortly after recovering, we promptly jumped in and did it again. We sometimes had contests to see who could stay in the longest. I don’t remember what the prize was — probably because I never won.
One of my favorite memories was the year I tried to embrace my rural roots by planting my own flower garden in a quaint corner of our yard. Each day, I jumped off the school bus to note the progress of my creation and I was thrilled as tiny vines and plants started to emerge from the ground. One afternoon, as I ran toward the house to drop off my backpack and retreat to my garden, I found my mom at the door beside my four-year-old brother. She had her hand on top of his head and she said, “Chad has something he needs to tell you.”
Eager to get on with this strange family meeting, I looked to my brother who said, “I farmed your garden today. C’mon, I’ll show you.” As he took off in the direction of my garden, I knew this wasn’t good. There he stood, proud as could be, like a small Vanna White presenting a prize. I looked down and saw his little push-along John Deere tractor and combine in my former garden. Little plow lines danced through the middle, and my tiny plants lay in piles ready for “baling.” My perfect stone edging was now stacked like a fence to contain two plastic cows. I smile now, remembering the cute look of astonishment on his face at the fact that I didn’t see the beauty in his masterpiece. “It’s a fine farm,” he told me. I must admit that it was.
Thinking back on these memories, I regret the summers I spent loathing the isolation of country living. Now, as I sit on my parent’s front porch, I see it all so differently. Earlier today, I spotted my brother’s rusty toy tractor and combine in the back yard, and I thought to myself that they deserve to be permanent fixtures in the flower garden. My mom is pulling my daughter around the yard in a wagon with two black Labrador Retrievers chasing happily behind. I hear the locusts beginning their evening serenade.
Someday I hope to find myself sitting on my own front porch staring out at a little acreage. Hopefully my daughter will still be young enough to complain about how the country life cramps her social life, because I want her to have the same moment of awakening that I did when I realized how blessed I was to be a country kid.
It seems so fitting that my career led me to work with United Country Real Estate, where I might, in some small way, play a part in bringing others to a place where similar memories can be made.
The way I see it, United Country is a purveyor of dreams. A paradise is built in an individual’s mind, and United Country brings it to fruition. As that buyer stands amid his dream property, he’ll know he has found his freedom.