The Land of the Partially Connected
Greetings from Ottertail County
Last week my family visited some relatives in Minnesota. Fergus Falls and Clitherall to be exact. Both are situated in Ottertail County – about half way up the state toward the Fargo, North Dakota side. While Fergus has a population of around 13,000, Clitherall claims 112 people and much of the area is farms, lakes, woods, nature and many of the locals are hunters, ice-fishers, farmers and people who love the great outdoors...even during the long, demanding winters. In the summer it is a quaint little resort town. There is a dirt road to get to my wife’s dad’s house and we even saw a couple eagles engaged in a talon lock while we were there. We always enjoy our stays.
A decade ago, cell phone coverage was spotty but it has gotten better, albeit 2/3G in some areas, and most have access to the internet either by cable or satellite. But the internet, for some folks, is not as important or critical like it is for many of us ‘connected’ beings. Poppa Maggie’s house on Mallard Bay can get internet access but he doesn't want it. I’m sure many of you have experienced remote areas of the country where the grid is available but people choose not participate or simply use their mobile device for the few things that they need.
At one of the family gatherings - on a farm in a log cabin - our cousins were wide-eyed about all the ‘technology’ stuff we knew. While I asked about the family history and why they originally settled in that location, soon the discussion turned to wearables, data breaches, encryption and even the Fed’s iPhone situation. I remember Cousin Patty saying, ‘I’m just a simple farm girl and really don’t know anything about the internet or technology.’
I was a little jealous.
Granted, many of the large farms in America do use technology to track the herd, measure moisture/water schedules, check soil conditions, maneuver tractors, check grain silos and so forth. But these were small family farmers and didn’t have large contracts with nationwide distributors. Often, their crop is to simply feed the family and stock for the year and/or sell at local markets.
I told Patty that I was a bit envious of her situation and knowing all the ins and outs of technology can sometimes be stressful, anxiety filled and a burden. Always worried about being a target; insight on how cyber-crime works; knowing that nothing is totally secure until you unplug or disconnect it. I felt safer surrounded by trees, lakes, deer, bear, geese, and ducks…and with no computer connection. Add to that, they got me beat hands down for survival skills. They are craftsman, artists, cooks, hunters, builders, agriculturalists, environmentalists, conservationists and hard working, good people.
BREAKING NEWS: It was tranquil and relaxing.
Like many of you, technology is part of my life, how I make a living and I’m not looking to hang up my RJ-45s any time soon. I have a great interest in how it is shaping our society and love exploring and explaining how a lot of it works. However, it is also important, to unplug every once in a while and experience some technology-free time. It clears the mind, slows you down and you might get to see the flirtatious free fall (or epic battle) of a truly majestic creature.