Niagara Gazette — I quite often get into discussions with folks from the Big City who wonder why I choose to live in rural Eastern Niagara County which is, in their eyes, so far away from everything.
Those folks from Amherst/Williamsville cite how they are just blocks, or a couple of miles at most, away from every store, restaurant, theatre or any other amenity that young families would ever want. “Quality of life” is their recurring mantra.
They see my rural way of life, and that lived by residents in neighboring small towns like Middleport and Newfane, as almost alien.
I see theirs in the same light and wonder what sort of quality of life can be appreciated solely on the basis of consumption. Millions of Americans dwell in densely populated suburbs and cities. What good are all of those places when the average family might be able to afford to visit them once, maybe twice, a week, or delve into debt to do so more often?
To country dwellers, quality of life is more than just the immediate and accessible consumption of a bunch of fancy dinners, consumer goods or the hippest movie. It’s about appreciating the simple things in life, mostly making memories with family and friends in the out-of-doors.
I look at the postage stamp lawns and jail-like fenced-in properties of the Williamsville types and wonder who would want that. Those of us who live out in the country have lawns and properties larger by multiples, where we can appreciate regular close encounters with wildlife and let our children roam, playing and learning in great amounts of wide-open space, rather than the confines of their living rooms and in the constant company of the latest video game.
Similarly, I look at the lack of public play space in the Big City and I take pride in our abundance of ball diamonds, soccer fields and playgrounds out in the country. While kids in our neck of the woods get together by playing sports, the suburban kids hang out at the mall.
On top of that, look at the other places that the allegedly deprived rural families have access to. Out here in God’s Country, we are just a 10- to 20-minute ride away from things that kids (and adults) really dig, like the Olcott Carousel Park, Becker Farms, sledding and snowmobiling in the winter, hiking at Royalton Ravine Park, and boating, jet skiing, fishing and more on Lake Ontario, the Erie Canal and Glenwood Lake.
Getting back to the supposed basis of suburban quality of life, who said that we’re lacking in access to consumption? Most of us are just 10 minutes away from a grocery store; other shopping can be had in Lockport, Medina and Albion. We are within a 20-minute drive of countless restaurants whose offerings and prices are far better than those had in Williamsville, from the interesting (The Shamus) to the Italian (DeFlippo's) to the International (Old Mill Run).
And about that 20-minute drive: It’s wide open, scenic driving; quite the opposite of the stop-and-go congestion faced by the Big City folk who blow 10 minutes just to go a few miles.
Usually having lost the argument by this time, city dwellers typically comment on how great their schools are. Really, are the kids afforded that much better an education? When you speak of graduating classes in the hundreds, you’re telling me that through a child’s entire school career she was just a name or a number, lost in the shuffle, one of many.
In our much smaller rural schools, students one another personally, teachers can devote more attention and care to each and every one of them, and the community at large is much more engaged in lending a helping hand to education.
Living out in the country isn’t for everyone. That’s obvious; just look at the population and the widely held disdain for it. But we like it that way. Call us greedy, but we like having this superior quality of life all to ourselves.Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at TheNewAmerican.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer