I find I stand taller
with my feet on the land
that my grandfather worked
with his hands.
(from Grey Eagle, by David Lamotte)
When I first heard those words sung, I cried over their truth. Mom and Dad live on the farmland that was her father’s before her, and his father’s before him, and so on for generations – all the way to pre-Civil War land grant days. In a day and time when families are mobile and jobs and homes are transitory, I sometimes feel that I am one of the few of my generation who still feels the strong draw of the land.
The farm is a beautiful place: some flat pastures, some areas with rolling hills speckled with calves playfully kicking their feet and butting heads, woods that house the history of days gone by, even a tree that still bears the initials of my grandfather and his older brother that were carved in the days of their youth.
The land whispers of the past. In one pasture you will find large stones used to mark an Indian graveyard. My mother swears that she saw an Indian on horseback one day when she was bushhogging that pasture. (Others say it was just the heat!) Nearby is a steep hill that hid horses from scavenging soldiers from the North during the Civil War. There are old stories of buried silver, although no one seems to know enough about it to get too excited.
Not all the land’s history is so ancient. For eight years I lived in a mobile home on that farm with my husband. The mobile home is long gone now, as is the marriage. Unfortunately, it is the memories of pain and betrayal that linger on in what is now once again a cow pasture. It is still difficult to walk by the site without feeling the old knots in my stomach and tension in my back and neck.
If I keep walking, I will pass in front of the house where my grandparents used to live. Some days, if I listen closely, I can still hear my grandfather’s deep voice from the front porch or hear my grandmother calling him in from the barn, “Charles!”
All of the tenant houses I remember from my childhood are gone, but the air is full of voices of the generations of tenants that lived in them.
Today my parents and aunts and uncles farm the land. It is a joy for me to ride in the truck through the pastures, opening gates and pretending to be a day farmer. I listen as they talk about breeding cows, changing pastures, and the benefits of certain types of feed. Some days it makes sense. Others, not so much so. In spite of my ignorance, I feel taller, stronger, freer after breathing the air of home.
Sometimes I dream of living there again, entering into the rhythm of life that is governed by seasons and weather. I dream of marking time by buds and leaves on trees or the birthing of new life, rather than depending on the appointments recorded on my calendar. Maybe it will happen one day. Maybe not.
But whether I ever live there again or not, it will always be home.