The journey of a city girl gone country
By Rhonda Barton

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

In the words of Minnie Pearl, HOWDEE! I'M JUST SO PROUD TO BE HERE!

Some young readers may not know who Minnie Pearl is. Let me explain, because she is the back story to my discussion. Minnie Pearl, of course, was only a stage name. She was in real life, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, born the daughter of a prosperous lumber magnate and later married to Henry Cannon, an air charter pilot to stars, such as Elvis. She graduated with a degree in theater from the prestigious Belmont College in Nashville. She was the epitome of refinement. An elegant socialite who liked classical music and dance. A city girl.

Aspiring to become an actress, Sarah morphed herself over the years into a character she called Cousin Minnie Pearl. Minnie Pearl was a small-town country girl who was preoccupied with chasing men and gossiping about her family and neighbors. She spoke in a southern hillbilly drawl, dressed in style-less "down home" dresses and wore a hat with a price tag dangling from it, displaying the price of $1.98. You know, a country girl and just the opposite of who Sarah really was.

Now how does all this pertain to me? Well, I am a city-gone-country girl, too. I want to take you through the stages in my life that transformed me from a city girl to a country girl. We'll first peer into my city-girl life; then, visit what we'll call my blooming period; I'll let you hear what life as a country girl is like now and finally, what my future aspirations might be. My city-to-country girl conversion, like Sarah Cannon's transformation into Minnie Pearl, was a deliberate decision but one that did not happen overnight.

I grew up in a nice city neighborhood in Franklin, Ky. Most of my childhood was spent less than six blocks from the square. We had lots of friends and spent many hot summer days at the public pool to cool ourselves. It was just a quick walk from home. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood and we gathered to ride bikes and play kickball almost every day. We played together until the street light came on. That was our signal to go home. I visited the country a lot, but never lived there.

I was happy in the city, but as I grew older, I longed for what I thought country life meant...horses. I loved horses. Actually, I loved all animals. Mom and Dad tried to appease me by giving me countless dogs and cats throughout my formative years. We even raised rabbits once in a shed in the back yard! I had an opossum, a five-legged turtle and innumerable hamsters. My sister even had a couple of birds. Yet I still longed for a horse. My cousins had some horses, though, and I begged to visit them often. Mom thought I really loved my cousins...actually I spent more time in the barn and field with their horses than I did with them.

Fast forward a few years to the blooming period of my life. By then, I had a husband, Roger. We married in 1984 and soon purchased my grandmother's house in town upon her death. Together we have three wonderful children; two boys and a girl. The first 16 years of our family life were spent still within the city limits of the big ole city of Franklin, just a couple of blocks from my old neighborhood. Those were wonderful years as we raised our babies and worked our butts off in too many jobs, to own too many things, to impress too many people.

By 1999, however, Roger and I were ready for a change. We both had begun to feel restless and trapped in our little neighborhood. While we loved our house and lot (ours was bigger than most) and our neighbors, we were beginning to feel a little cramped; it was so noisy, the house next door a little too close by. We wanted to have room to spread out, fresher air to breathe, show our kids how to live more slowly, to appreciate life...blah, blah, blah. Honestly, we were just really tired of town. And I had begun to dream of horses again.

In the novel, The Odyssey, by Homer, the Sirens sing a song so irresistible no one that hears it can escape. They lured sailors in to their deaths with these songs. Such romanticism. You should know, my life is not made of such things. Even so, I just knew we would hear bells, see stars or something as profound as a siren's song when we finally laid eyes upon OUR farm. As luck would have it, we had passed by our farm many times without even hearing the inklings of a tune. It was found because Roger was prone to driving around, (he's an avid arrowhead collector) and while on one such expedition, he saw a small path leading out into a unkempt field with a for sale sign stuck up there right by the road.

Also in The Odyssey, there's a guy named Circe who warns Odysseus of the dangers of heeding the sirens and tells him how to avoid their song. Well, where was our Circe? For we indeed fell under a spell, (guess those Sirens were singing), bought the place and immediately started renovating. It was just far enough to be out in the country and just big enough to get our feet wet. The previous owners had built a new house on the other side of the county and had pretty much given up on ever selling OUR place. It had been six years since they occupied the house and, from the looks of it, had even maintained the grounds.

We worked night and day, painting, cleaning, mowing and pulling up overgrown shrubbery until it was at least livable again. There were no fences, no ponds or streams, and just a shoddy little outbuilding we proudly called "the barn." Those weren't the only things we had to work on though. Instead of being excited about all the new-found space to explore, our oldest two children were sour and unhappy that they were, and I quote: "moving away from their friends." “OH MY GOD!”, “we will never be the same!" end quote.

"Really?", I countered. It was just six miles out! They were still in the same schools, on the same ball teams, could go to the same restaurants, keep the same friends. How could they be so unreasonable? In hindsight, I see they were largely right. It did change us all forever. The transformation had begun and all it took was five acres-just six miles out of downtown Franklin. It was that little speck of ground that began to define me. That was the beginnings of my metamorphosis.

Now what do two city people do on a farm? Dream. And plan. Roger loved cattle, and I HAD to have some horses! So when my gracious husband said he'd put up fences, I was ecstatic! I promised to help. (And did, thank you!) Man, is fencing hard work! We'd work 8-10 hours at our “real jobs,” then work until we couldn't see through the darkness on the fencing. We went to bed lots of late nights with sore backs and torn hands---barbed wire is not friendly, but we slept peacefully with a sense of accomplishment. For weeks we worked. We became weary and sorry that we had made this decision, but progress was being made and we kept at it. Then, all at once, it was done. And it was glorious! Those black creosote posts standing like sentinels proclaiming our victory! The glimmer of the fence in the sun was our sparkling trophy!


I will not go into great detail of the many types of animals that trotted in and out on our little farm because there were many. Many different heads of cattle, many breeds of horses. Dogs and cats, donkeys, burros...we even got some chickens. Each “critter”came with it's own lesson.


Fast forward now, 14 years later. We are called Wild Winds Farm. We even have a sign and business cards! We are the only USDA certified provider of duck meat in Kentucky. We also sell fresh chicken meat and eggs. Of course, we sell them live too. We still have a horse or two, (actually four and a donkey) and just recently acquired our first Savanna-Cross buck goat, Abraham. He's named Abraham because we are hopeful that he will be the father of our “goat nation.”

Our journey has taken many twists and turns. We've had our share of failures and triumphs. Through it all, we have been enormously happy. Even our two stubborn kids came around to the idea of “farming.” Our youngest has always loved it. They each visit often and are proud of their home-place now. My grandchildren inspired me to invite other children out to the farm. You'd be surprised how many children in this area have not actually heard a horse whinny or held a live baby chicken. This summer we built a picnic area that we advertise for public use to give others the chance to spread out and, well, breathe. Breathe OUR country air.

So what does the future hold for Wild Winds Farm? Who knows? More farm visitors I hope. Goat meat, maybe, if Abraham gets busy. A few feeder calves? If the farm next door ever comes up for sale we hope to buy it and get more cows. Anything is possible. One thing is for certain, as long as I'm on my little farm, happiness will be involved.

Sarah Cannon turned into Minnie Pearl. While I loved watching her on Hee Haw and the Grand Ole Opry, she was not really a significant figure to me while growing up. Now that I'm older, I recognize that my life has in many ways paralleled hers. City-girl-gone-country. This story about my city girl beginnings, my blooming into a country girl, and my future possibilities has been brought to you by God and told to you by me. In conclusion, I'll quote Homer once again, "The journey is the thing". How right he is. 

Rhonda Barton is a student and peer writing tutor at the Franklin Center of Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College, formerly Bowling Green Tech.

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