A few years back articles began appearing in The Christian Century (not the amazing and ubiquitous Brian Doyle articles) but the occasional articles by Terra Brockman. Her articles concern the goings on at a small scale (but not real small) family farm in southern Illinois. I love her articles, but I also hate them.
Hate them? Yeah, I said that. I hate them because deep down I wanted to write them. I hate them because there was a time when I thought I would return to the old family farm in north central West Virginia and live out my days farming it. I spent hours dreaming about Rambo and Grimes Golden apples, the asparagus patch, polled Herefords, grapes along the fence, Rhode Island Reds (or "big ladies" as my great aunt called them), the spring fed well (with its own two foot long salamander), and roots music. But then, but then the coal companies came and bombed the mountainsides to smithereens! (pre Mountain Top Removal)
I was 14 years old when my great aunt died. We buried her at the old family cemetery across the road from the old home place. We laid her in the grave with daffodils blooming, verdant aromas, and everyone close together. But when the minister read the 23rd Psalm I turned around and looked in terror at the valley of the shadow of death as I stared at the crosscut mountain. I knew then my life wouldn't go as planned.
Over the years I have toyed with the idea of farming. In Rhode Island I had a 1/2 acre garden plot but that will be as big as I get in this life. After we buried Artie another family member died, my first cousin. His death brought on a new calling - redemption. And that is why I love Terra Brockton's essays.
They enable me to smell upturned earth, aging manure, or fresh picked lilacs. They enable me to feel the warmth of a hen nestled up to my chest (if only for a second). They enable me to pick up a calf and think if I could pick this calf up each day by the end of summer I could pick up 400lbs. They enable me to dream again.
So if you haven't read Seasons on Henry's Farm, get you going and read it.
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