Am I a country girl? or a city girl?
I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and lived there until 4 years old; we moved to Dayton, Ohio and lived there until I was 10 years old; then we moved out into the absolute country to Jamestown, Ohio, and lived there until my mid-20s.
I consider myself a country girl!
It started at an early age – even when I lived in the “big cities” of Cincinnati and Dayton, some of my favorite memories were visiting my Uncle Eddie and Aunt Lila’s 350 acre farm in Lebanon, Ohio.
I would follow the peacocks around in hopes that they would drop a tail feather. I absolutely adored the morning ritual of collecting eggs in the chicken coop with Aunt Lila. I would brush the horses, Big King and Little King. I would watch the calves being born and nursing from their mothers. I climbed the wooden slat ladders to the hay mow and ran deftly along the giant beam rafters in the top of the bank barn. I took naps in the straw, played in the crick (again, creek for all you non-Ohioans), chased butterflies in the meadow, dug worms as “treats” to hand fed to the chickens, and helped move the cattle herd down the road to the alternate grazing pastures.
I started taking horseback riding lessons at six years old while we still lived the city life.
Going to the riding stables was the absolute highlight of my week. I trained with English tack and my discipline was hunter/jumpers. Riding the school horses around the outdoor arena and learning the nuances of riding and how to interact with the horses was always great. But, on the days when our riding instructor Frances Steinohrt would take us trail riding – any shred of my existence that didn’t take place on the back of my horse du ‘jour disappeared like a mere wisp.
Communing with nature from the back of a horse is the best feeling in the world. Strolling along the trails in the meadows, your horse deftly picking its way through the brush and subsequently the wooded trails; the birds calling out; the sound of the babbling brook in the distance; wading across the river on horseback – these are some of the most defining moments of my childhood.
Once we moved to Jamestown – and specifically, Grape Grove – my fate was sealed.
Jamestown, Ohio, was a little town with one stop light smack dab in the middle, and I lived five miles out of town. Legend has it that the crossroads of Route 35 and Route 72 was where two Native Americans cross paths. Who knows.
We moved to the parsonage beside the little country church in June of 1974, which gave me the entire summer to explore my new surroundings and become acclimated to the country life before I would have to start at a new school in the fall.
It felt like the entire world had opened up to me and there were no limitations or borders.
I was used to riding my bike up to the five and dime store up on Salem Avenue in Dayton, and that was freedom to a 9-year-old girl in the city. I’d take my allowance and go buy a candy bar or a new stuffed toy, or a treat from my dog Bootsie.
But this … the wide expanse of the country was something completely different. When they refer to a “country mile,” they aren’t kidding. In linear terms, a mile is a mile, but a mile out there on my bike or the back of my horse seemed to stretch on for days!
Unlike the rolling hills of the eastern portion of the state of Ohio, southwest Ohio is very flat (until you hit Cincinnati).
Most days you could see clear past Ritenour’s farm all the way to the end of the road, which was literally a mile away. And you could hear everything — the screech owl pair that lived in the old, abandoned one-room school house just past Watkins Road; the mower running all the way down at the cemetery across from Thompson’s farm, and combines – lots of tractors and combines – all hours of the day and night.
And the smells are some of the most near and dear to my heart.
The smell of a hundred worms on the wet pavement after a storm is a smell I will never forget. People make fun of me because I can tell you the difference between cow and pig poop just by the smell. And, I’ve always said, my favorite smell in the world is my dirty horse. There is nothing like that smell anywhere.
In my early 20s, I moved back to the “big city” of Dayton, Ohio, went to college, got a job, reveled in the fact that I lived less than a mile away from the Dayton Mall.
Heck, I even lived in New Orleans, Louisiana for a year in 1989-90, before moving back to Ohio. Columbus, this time. I lived with my parents, who had retired to Columbus while I was in New Orleans; got married the first time and bought a house with my first husband; got divorced and lived with a really cool co-worker and roommate, Heidi, up in Dublin, Ohio; and even purchased my own home back in Columbus and lived the single life there for several years.
But once I got up on my own two feet again, there was no way to ignore the tug of the fresh country air.
In 2005, I bought myself a little 5 acre farm up in Morrow County, Ohio. There were no farm provisions at the time, but I managed (with the help of a couple friends) to build my own pasture fences, install gates and water troughs and a run-in shed for the horses. I turned an existing tool shed into a chicken coop and was happy as a lark. I knew it was official when I bought myself a brand new John Deere tractor to keep up with the grounds on my little slice of heaven.
I would wake up in the morning to my horses staring into my bedroom window from pasture 2. And, just like the morning routine with Aunt Lila back when I was little, I would go outside and gather the fresh chicken eggs every morning. My two spoiled hand-raised peacocks would trounce around the yard and make the craziest noises. I rode my horses up and down our unpaved road and across the expanse of freshly cut fields (with permission, of course), and watched as Amish buggies would pass my little ranch on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, a year later, cancer struck me for the first time and I lost it all.
Lost the farm and my car and my truck and my tractor. I had to find homes for all my horses and chickens and cats and rabbits. It was awful. But, that’s one of the things about the disease – it just doesn’t care!
Since that time, I’ve been back in the city. Columbus, Ohio, to be exact.
City life absolutely has its conveniences, as I am well aware of still today, where I live a little over a mile from Polaris Fashion Place (mall) in north Columbus, Ohio. We have shopping galore, convenience stores on nearly every corner, and every type of restaurant imaginable. And it’s nice. I’m close to my office and my Mom and my nieces, and it is nice to be able to make a Taco Bell run at all hours of the night whenever the mood hits.
But, am I a country girl or a city girl? Maybe a little of both.