Country Girl in the Suburbs
by Elaine Marie Cooper
While I have resided in the suburbs through most of my lifetime, my heart has always felt more at home in the countryside.
From the time I was a little girl, I would stare in wonder at open fields that beckoned to me while we drove by in our car. If I were lucky enough to have my parents stop, I would burst out of the car door and run to my heart’s content. I remember Mom always calling me her “country girl.”
One day, when bicycling around the suburbs in Massachusetts where I grew up, I made a thrilling discovery: An old farm horse that lived in an open-air stall with a roof for protection. I had found a remnant of country life, right in my neighborhood! The man who owned her told me her name was “Babe” and every day that I could, I pedaled over to visit my equine friend, carrying sweet offerings of sugar cubes and carrots. We were good friends, or so I imagined. She left such an impression on me that I named a horse in my second novel (The Promise of Deer Run) after this childhood pal.
I never outgrew my love for the country. Even years later, farmland and the site of animals helps me feel at peace with the world. I love the quiet, and the endless green of summer and white expanse in winter. I love the smell of horses and the gentle nuzzle of a sweet gelding content to greet me, even if I don’t bring any treats. I have to enjoy these pleasures vicariously through a friend’s country retreat and animals. It always brings moments of fulfilling contentment—even if just for a short time.
Is the love of the country in one’s blood? Perhaps it is. In researching the life of my third great grandfather who lived in Western Massachusetts, I discovered newspaper articles about the livestock he showed at local county fairs. He even raised horses. My country heart swells with familial joy at that knowledge. J
This grandfather, Daniel Prince Jr, is the inspiration for the protagonist in The Legacy of Deer Run. Just like the character in my book (Daniel Lowe, Jr), my real grandfather worked at the National Armory in Springfield for many years to support his large family. But he purchased farmland and raised livestock and lived on his land until he died at the age of 92. And he apparently loved horses, just like his great, great, great granddaughter.
When I travel back to West Springfield, where he lived and died, I place flowers upon his grave and that of his wife, Sarah, my third great grandmother. I think of how wonderful it must have been for their children to run to their heart’s content on the farm. Now that same land has become a developed city of houses. It is now a crowded suburb, just like where I grew up.