Hunkering and the Art of Rural Communication

The author explains the nature of rural communication: that it's defined by posture, pace of speech, and a willingness to spend time with one's neighbor.

| July/August 1973

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    The standard hunkering position, from which much producting conversation can flow.

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Longhairs, gentle people, back-to-the-earthers ... whatever name we go by, we're all going to make it in our venture with the land in proportion to our practical and psychological readiness, plus our ability to learn as we go along.

And, I conjecture, some of us will fail because we don't know how to hunker ... and never find out.

On one level, hunkering is the squatting-on-the-haunches posture assumed by many country folk outdoors, especially when there's something serious to discuss or ponder. In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck describes the position like this:

. . . and then he squatted down in the dust and found a stick to draw with. One foot was flat to the ground, the other rested on the ball and slightly back, so that one knee was higher than the other. Left forearm rested on the lower, left, knee; the right elbow on the right knee, and the right fist cupped for the chin ... 

But the art of hunkering goes far beyond physical posture to encompass tact, sensitivity and all the other aspects of effective communication between human beings. I use the word to mean the whole process of relating to other people, especially to those whose values are not one's own. And I believe that mastering this skill just might be the key to success in your particular corner of the Gentle Revolution.

Obviously, the suggestions I offer here are meant basically for those who are living in the country for the first time and trying to make a go of homesteading with a little book learning and a lot of grit. But I think that the principles of hunkering will help anyone who's working to create his own lifestyle in a community of strangers ... whatever the setting may be.

Rosanna Marcum
5/12/2009 10:11:50 AM

Very nice article! This brings back memories of when I was a child living on the farm. My dad and uncles, neighbors and strangers alike all hunkered to have discussions. I was just amazed at how long they could hold that hunkered position!

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