Do you know what is different between our generation and that of our parents' and grandparents' generation? It’s space.

Not space in terms of stars, planets, meteors, satellites, the moon and Buzz Lightyear. No, I’m talking about the difference in the amount of space between us and the other people we come into contact with every day.

In my grandparents’ day, their personal space was a lot smaller. Everyone lived a lot closer together, both in terms of the distance between farms and ranches and especially indoors, where the average house packed-in 10 kids.

Today, if there’s one word we hear more often than any other it might just be the word “spacious.”

We hear the word “spacious” used in reference to automobile interiors, hotel rooms, beaches, showers, combine cabs and even ice-fishing houses.

My grandmother came from a family of 10. And her oldest brothers were 20 years older and lived just down the road with their families packed into another little farmhouse bulging at the seams.

Back then, having your own bedroom was unheard of. Having your own bed was a fantasy.

When my parents went to high school in my little hometown, located just a stone’s throw from the Montana and Canadian borders, they were typical farm/ranch kids that stayed in town in the winter, crammed into an upstairs bedroom with someone else in a not-so-big house.

How did they survive? It’s quite simple really. Everyone spent a lot more time outdoors in the wide open spaces, tending cattle, plowing fields, putting up hay and hanging out the laundry. Even their clothes spent a lot more time outdoors.

I can remember sheets being frozen on the clothesline in midwinter then smelling absolutely heavenly when you crawled into them later, fresh and clean on your bed. No dryer can replace that.

I remember being a little kid attending high school basketball games in our old gym. It was in the basement of the school, built into the ground, with the pep band at the top of the stairs on one side, and no room for cheerleaders, except on the court at all times.

Recently, scientists have begun to examine how living in cities impacts the brain. What they’ve found is that even spending a few minutes on a crowded city street reduces the ability of the brain to hold things in memory.

Adversely, it appears that nature is surprisingly beneficial for the brain. Studies have even demonstrated that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows.

Therefore, it must have been the fact that our ancestors had consistently worked closely with nature that enabled them to survive despite living in cramped conditions.

Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchel once said, “From out there on the moon, international politics looks so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son-of-a- …’”

He was putting life into perspective. And isn’t that what it is all about?

Kevin Holten is the president of the North Dakota Cowboy Association and executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV.

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