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A sympathy card is in the mail to Lisa Douglas.
You may remember her, the wife of attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas, who was pulled against her will from her apartment on Park Avenue in New York City and moved to a farm in the middle of somewhere so her husband could pursue his true passion of farming.
Lisa wasn’t happy about that decision, because the new digs were closer to henhouse than penthouse, if you get my drift. But she adapted.
Probably half of you know the story of Oliver and Lisa Douglas, as sliced into 30-minute episodes over the 6-season run of Green Acreson CBS. The comedy, a spinoff of Petticoat Junction, which was a spinoff of The Beverly Hillbillies, were part of the CBS prime time lineup that dominated the late 1960s and early 1970s TV viewing habits in America until a new genius took over at CBS and decided that wasn’t the image the network wanted to project and implemented a “rural purge” of all the good shows.
Lest you unwashed think this some sort of early version of Simple Life, there was no reality about this series, at least there didn’t seem to be until the fictional folly of the Douglases came “shoosting up” – Lisa’s term – last week when our family moved from our suburban manse to a farm.
OK, so our house on the extreme northwest corner of Simpsonville was hardly a manse and barely suburban, but it was a bit more urbane than the small plot of land and 1980s-style house we now own in the northwest part of the county.
This is not unplowed ground to me. First, as many of you know, I actually grew up on a dairy and tobacco farm and am much more familiar with the sights, sounds and smells than either of the Douglases. Our green acres also are only a few miles from where we were living and on the road leading to Dover Baptist Church, which is where Jesus and I were introduced in the last century.
And although our farm is not so isolated that it requires a train ride to Hooterville just to use the phone, my wife and I are starting to wonder because of several lessons that drove home a point we had heard: Life is not equal access for everyone.
The first burden of proof came when we learned the house didn’t have city sewers, an indignity lost deep in our memories, but the arrived more slowly, when we learned that our familiar cable TV and broadband Internet access would not be accompanying us, either.
Now my whole adult life has been wrapped in cable. I remember when I first subscribed in the 1970s and believed that life was a full magnitude greater for that one invention (including what was then called Home Box Office and WTBS-Ch. 17, of course). You see how many years that relationship took root in my life. You see how the change to something different might be a bit uncivilized?
First I called my telephone company. Do you provide DSL service?
Yes, we do, but it will be too slow to stream video.
What about TV? Yes, through an arrangement with a satellite company. Oh.
So then I visited a wireless company. My first clue that this was a small outfit came when I went to the office, and no one was there. At 1 p.m. On a weekday. Staff lunch.
Anyway, I asked about Internet service. Yes, we service that house. But we can only provide this much bandwidth. Ugh. Can it stream video (I’m thinking of our Netflix account here)? Well, if the file isn’t too large.
That was the best we could do. Thankfully, the cellular telephones worked fine. (Take note, Paul Hornback.)
We wrangled with various other issues that never had not been part of the modern eras of our lives – like a plug that would not accept our dryer, no water line to our icemaker, no garbage disposal and no modem to the Internet access from any room in the house (how modern, all wireless!).
I know, if that stuff were extremely important, we didn’t have to buy the place, right? But we love the land and the fact that our horses now could sleep in their own paddocks, not someone else’s. We took Oliver Douglas’s sunny view of everything and noted the pluses of “good-bye city life.”
The Douglases, though, dealt with two rooms, one barely large enough for their bed, and no closet for any of Lisa’s elegant gowns and Oliver’s tailored suits. Of course Mr. Haney would show up each week and offer to sell them any little thing they needed, and “brothers” Ralph and Alph Monroe took at least a full season of episodes to build them extra space onto the house, which for a long time was a pass-through wall.
We haven’t called the ultras-opportunistic Mr. Haney just yet – plenty of contractors, yes – but the coldest and harshest reality came home to roost (no, we have no chickens) when my wife called to order some pizzas for the guys moving our stuff into the house.
She called the usual stores from whom we had ordered frequently. They were uniform: No, we don’t deliver “out there.”
Then she called some new places. Same answer. Not in our territory.
I think the people in the projects of Chicago’s South Side can get pizza delivered.
But what gives? After all, we are no farther from Shelbyville than we were in our Simpsonville ‘burb. We are 5 minutes from the bypass and about a half-mile off a state road. Our debit card works the same, let me assure you.
Less than a mile from our house, we can see the lights from Collins High School’s baseball field.
No, we are not in Hooterville!
But it sure feels that way.