About a hundred acres of LAND along the Mississippi River was cared for and cultivated by my family for almost 75 years. It was a rolling landscape of steep-sided, deep ravines, meandering little creeks, broad swaths of hayfields, rutted-by-tractor-tires pathways, dotted with stands of pine and oak and poplar. When I was very young we would take a wagon out to the “back forty” (yes they actually referred to it as such) and cut down our own little Christmas cedar. In the spring I would trek to some of my favorite spots and play my version of Little House on the Prairie or fancy myself an explorer looking for just the right spot for my log cabin—and time and time again I came back to the same spot; a flat little plateau beneath a giant sycamore next to the farm pond.
In the heat of sultry Kentucky summers my grandmother and I would don our long-sleeved cotton shirts and brimmed hats and walk probably half a mile to rows of prickly, but bountiful blackberry bushes that grew for what seemed like an eternity along a falling-down fence.
When the days cooled we would take a jaunt to the “river bottom.” All along the mighty river banks were towering pecan trees that eventually dropped their native produce to the ground so that we could rake them into our burlap bags to haul them home for crackin’. Then we’d sit under the branches of a sprawling oak and pick out the meat morsels from their protective shells. As we worked, we could watch my father in the adjoining field as he and his cohorts raked up loose strands of hay and then pushed them back onto the ochre-colored ground in a boxy bale. Our 80 or so head of cattle would be happy to see it dropped into feed bins during the harsh days ahead.
There is a cycle to life on a farm; to life everywhere. We flourish because of it. Farm life was a self-sustaining process. We planted, we grew, we harvested, and we preserved. We also persevered. The legacy of generations before us who had held this patch of ground as sacred was revealed to us as we took our turn behind the plowshare.
The future of life as we know it is being determined by everything we’re doing—or not doing—to the land we love. It demands our thoughtful, reasoned observation and consideration. It is the only thing that lasts. And it is worthy of our love and care.