The Last Laugh: Farm Health Vs. City Health

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ILLUSTRATION: RICK KIRKMAN
In terms of daily exercise, farm health far surpasses city health.

 No one can deny that city living is bad for the body and
hard on the mind, or that life in the country is hard on
the body but good for the soul. In a city you can live
well, even luxuriously; if your soul gets in the way, lose
its number. But in the country, I submit you have a better
shot at a long and healthy life. To prove this hypothesis,
let us briefly compare farm health vs. city health: the two life-styles and
specifically, the disparities in diet, exercise, stress
levels, and toxin cleansing.

Diet: A typical city breakfast is one
piece of dry toast, half a grapefruit, juice, a bowl of
cornflakes with skim milk, and one cup of decaffeinated
coffee. Aside from quiche, eggs don’t appear on the menu
very often; city people who care about their health avoid
eggs because of their cholesterol. So the typical country
breakfast — two fresh, brown eggs easy-over with a
slab of country ham and a side of waffles drenched in syrup
and butter — would seem to be the serving of a death
warrant for the city dweller; three cups of strong coffee
with real cream would just about sign it. It was combining
a country diet with a city lifestyle that killed Elvis.

Out here, we seldom breakfast on cereal in a bay window
like those (city-based) actors in bathrobes who have
misplaced their spoons, because most sane country people
would prefer real food to a bowl of sweetened kibble.
Granola is a city food. Carbo loading was invented in the
country, where calories burn off fast, which leads me to…

Exercise: In the city, you sit perfectly still in a chair
during breakfast, scanning a newspaper to stay abreast of
the murder, mayhem, scandals, scams, swindles, and stock
market collapses, all the jangling data to prime you for
another day in the concrete jungle. Then you sit perfectly
still in a car or train seat until you arrive at the
office, where you sit perfectly still in a chair and maybe
take an electronic bath in video-terminal rays for eight
hours. At the end of the day, you go to a health club and
make a little sweat.

But experts agree that running, deep breathing, and/or hard
physical labor is the best way to work off stress and stay
fit. No problem. Getting out of bed, you observe that the
chickens are in the garden or the horse has picked the gate
latch and is bolting for the hills. Fifteen minutes of
chasing chickens is equivalent to an hour of jogging, but
catching a horse makes the Boston Marathon seem like a
stroll.

By this time your blood is circulating pretty well, and
it’s time to get to work. A spade is the ultimate implement
for exercise in the country. Few health clubs have shovels
in the weight room, but this tool is unsurpassed for
working the entire upper body: biceps, triceps, neck,
shoulders, quads, pecs, and abs, not to mention the thighs,
calves, ankles, and toes. A day spent digging in the garden
and pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt or manure simply
cannot be compared to a day spent sitting in a chair,
screaming on the phone, and chewing antacid tablets.

Stress Level: No contest. See above.

Toxin Cleansing: If we pretend that air
you can see is just as good as the air you can breathe, the
city mouse appears to have the advantage. But, frankly, I
think the major environmental toxin that affects both
groups is tobacco addiction. Drive along any city street at
noon, and you will see the buildings empty as smokers rush
down (riding an elevator, perfectly still) from the
conditioned air into the smog and bus fumes, to poison
themselves even further.

Out in the country, you can use any form of tobacco
anywhere you like, sucking smoke or spitting juice all day
long. The entire workplace is outdoors after all; have a
cigar and only your lungs will complain. But the major
drawback, accessibility to supply, is also the biggest
asset to your health program. When you live 10 miles from
the nearest cigarette outlet, you eventually stop smoking
because one time the car won’t start, another time you run
out of gas, and another time a cop pulls you over. The
cumulative daily hassle of scoring tobacco makes you quit.

In the city, you slap an expensive patch on your neck, type
furiously, and suffer in silence. Out here, you can just
grit your teeth and pick up a hoe, beating the dirt and
shrieking at the top of your lungs for three days, while
your family hurriedly takes off to visit sick relatives in
the city.