Back in the 1840's, when his health gave way, my 4x great grandfather sold our farm to my 3x great grandfather. In his turn, he sold it to my great-great grandfather who passed it on to his son when it was time. When my great grandfather's tenure was up, it passed along to my grandfather who used it kindly for two full generations. My mom and dad bought the place in 1980 and raised my brother and I in the old house. When dad died unexpectedly, mom sold the land to me. Six years later, my first wife and I got a divorce. Because of that, after several generations and 174 years, our tenure as stewards on that piece of land came to an abrupt end (though my mother still owns the house and a little land around it).
As you might imagine, I didn't need much help after it sold to feel extremely guilty about how it all turned out. The man who bought my farm was interested in it primarily for the new house we had built on it a couple of years previously. Other than using it as a buffer between him and other neighbours, he had absolutely no interest in the land and he's done nothing at all to keep it up in my absence. To be fair to him, he has no history in the place, and I take some solace that at my request, he rented the cropland to a distant cousin who (obviously) knows me and knows the land's history. But the man who bought it does know what it looked like when he got it from me, and I'd be lying to you if I didn't tell you that it tears me up inside every time I visit to watch them let good land grow up in scrub because they don't/won't/can't do anything about it. I fantasize at times about buying it back and making it mine again, but in truth it'd be more trouble and expense than it's worth at this point.
If I shut my eyes about halfway and only look at certain angles I can see the farm as it was when I was a boy, and again as it was when I worked it as a man. But each visit up there marks more changes, and it takes more work on my part to remember it as it was. When mom dies or moves away, whichever comes first, somebody else will make their memories in the house where I and generations of my family grew up and I think I can finally say that I'm okay with that. As much as I would have liked to believe differently when I first sold it, I knew when it passed out of my hands that my farming days on that land were done. Just as I was taught to do, I left it better than I found it and from here on, it's somebody else's worry.
Melissa and I have put a lot of effort, time and tears into building out our Lynnville farm the past couple of years. If all goes as planned, the last group of horses will move there from College Grove tomorrow morning, and our new farming legacy will finally be fully ready to begin. I don't know our new land's history and I don't know how long our tenure will last or how it'll turn out when our time is up. But I can tell you that it feels right in my bones and I like to imagine that from somewhere on the other side I'm getting a smile, a wink and a nod from those who have gone before me.
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