Anyone who has moved to the mountains recently has learned of the existence of a distinct subspecies of human beings known familiarly as "flatlanders."
thing that needs to be understood about this group is that it is
almost never found at sea level. Only when the flatlander takes
residence at a higher altitude do peculiar characteristics -- such
as an unwarranted assumption of superiority -- emerge. That
characteristic notwithstanding, the flatlander is extremely
difficult to distinguish from plain old Homo Sapiens. Fortunately,
however, I have borrowed the ways of a sociologist and assembled a
handy guide so that everyone can spot the behaviors, purchases and
clothing styles that signal what is also sometimes called the
"instant rural guy."
Down vests. For raiment, flatlanders
favor down vests. Seen in a group they resemble an army of
Buck knife. For reasons not yet known to
science, the flatlander is biologically compelled to buy and wear a
buck knife almost upon arrival in the high country. After acquiring
his buck knife, his is further compelled to wear it virtually
everywhere he goes, including the dentist's office and parents'
night at his children's school.
appear to carry a genetic anomaly forcing them to assume that
people who live at higher altitudes all speak with a southern
accent. Therefore, immediately upon moving to the mountains,
flatlanders adopt a modified southern accent, often calling
waitresses "darlin'," and dropping the letter "g" from all words
ending in "ing." Therefore, Flatlanders newly arrived from Los
Angeles and Fresno are frequently heard to say they are "goin'
huntin'," or "goin' fishin'," or "havin' a hankerin'."
Pickup truck, Hummer, or outsized SUV. As an adaptive behavior,
most flatlanders are compelled to buy a truck, a Hummer, or an
outsized SUV within days of moving to higher ground. A variant of
this adaptation is the desire for all-terrain or 4-wheel vehicular
capability, combined with a general reluctance to ever take those
vehicles off-road. When the flatlander does venture off-road, it is
nearly inevitable that ownership of a 4-wheel drive vehicle will
ensure that he gets stuck in a far more remote area than he would
have been stranded in had his vehicle not been equipped with that
feature. The most common load found in the bed of a Flatlander's
pickup truck is somewhere between five and 18 empty beer cans, and
nothing else whatsoever.
"God's Country." The flatlander
is genetically encoded with the compulsion to refer to his newfound
habitat as "God's Country." When pipes are freezing and logging
trucks are skidding off the ridges, and the power has been out for
three days, the flatlander is the only living thing known to use
Gun rack. While many non-flatlanders
also have gun racks in their pickup trucks, the gun rack of the
typical flatlander is easily identified because it holds a Daisy BB
gun and a long-handled ice scraper. Tattoos and other emblems. If a
flatlander gets a tattoo in the months immediately after moving to
the mountains, (and it is almost certain that he will), the tattoo
will feature either a lone wolf, a bald eagle or both.
Head gear. The flatlander favors either a cowboy hat or a baseball
cap bearing the logo of a feed store or sporting goods shop.
Baseball caps are never worn in the reverse position by
Gender characteristics. Despite the
ever-growing number of flatlanders in mountain communities
everywhere, no known examples of female flatlanders have been
found. How the species breeds has not yet been disclosed to
Belt buckles. Flatlanders favor large belt
buckles obscured from view by an overhanging fold of flab.
Group orientation. The flatlander has an almost neurotic
dislike of his own kind. Almost immediately after moving to the
mountains, flatlanders seek to deny ingress to other flatlanders
intent on moving to his environment. If the typical flatlander had
his way, no other flatlanders would be permitted to migrate to
"God's Country" once he has established residence there. But native
Westerners -- a true endangered species -- only have to wait a
while. The instant rural guy will adapt eventually, losing some of
his pretensions and becoming just as ornery as a local.
Jaime O’Neill is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a
service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is a freelance writer in
Magalia, California, which is not flat.