Grit Blogs > Country at Heart

Sources of Light on the Outskirts of Town

Country at HeartThe sun gives its light to the entire world, but when I lived in the country, we didn't have the privilege of lighted streets (where we could go anywhere we wanted, especially at night). When it gets dark in rural areas, you have to be at home or riding in a car. And even still, once you get home and turn the car head lights off, you have to have a flashlight or long-burning matches to see how to get into the house. No doubt, during my childhood, city people took lights for granted, but we country folks didn't, because lights were like gold – a precious commodity.

Living in the country is nothing like living in a big city where there is never a time when you don't see some kind of night light. And, honestly speaking, I have never really gotten use to residual lights shining through the curtains or the night light in the corner.

But when I was a kid, there was no such thing as a street light – not even a light dangling from a pole. If we went outside on a moonless night, we were in total darkness, unless we had a lantern (which we didn't have).

As you read the word "match," I can just about read your mind. "A match." Well, what good is a teeny, tiny match? Well, if you're in a dark house and don't have a remote control for your lamp light, a match comes in handy: when you need to get out of bed in the darkest room you've ever been in; or when you need to find that hair pin or ear ring that just fell to the floor; or when you need to go to the kitchen for midnight water; or when you need a little light for a quick second ... and I mean quick second, a match just might be your answer.

We always had a flashlight, especially if my dad had to go outside at night for something. It's interesting that the flashlight has stood the test of time and is still used today, but way back when, for country people, they were a necessary instrument. And of course, the batteries had to always be inside its "tummy." If you waited to put the batteries in when you needed the light, that would be too late, because there was no other light. If you lit a match, you couldn't hold the match and put the batteries in at the same time. The batteries had to be loaded during the day.

You're probably thinking, "Well, one person could strike and hold the match while the other person installed the batteries." Do you have any idea how long a match burns? And how long it takes to install batteries? More than a few seconds. So, just take it from me, the flashlight stayed "loaded" with batteries, just in case.

I never thought about this when I was a child, but what if, when my daddy was driving, the car headlights went out for just one second? Not only would we have been in a world of darkness, we also would have been in a ditch somewhere too. Today, that's a scary thought. But back then, it wasn't even a thought.

I can't tell you if those twinkling, white dots also shine when there's a full moon, but they are part of the heavenly constellation that do give us their light at night, and if you've never looked up into the sky while in the country, you've missed at least half of your night life. In the city, you may see a few stars hanging out at night, but in the country, mega stars flank the Milky "White" Way, and all of them smile down at you at once. Now, that's what I call a "night with the stars."

Finally, remember those old movies where when people had to go outside at night to the henhouse to see if a fox was after the chicken. They had this humongous wooden torch, the top was all aflame. I have no idea what it was made of, but it appeared to burn far longer than the person needed it. We used small, pine torches inside the house, but I don't recall going outside with those big, "head-hunting" blazes.

So as you might guess, we had some interesting ways of lighting our world at night, and as I write about them, I am homesick to take a walk under the stars and a full, Harvest Moon on a brisk, bright September night.