Poignant Reflections of an Aged Agrarian


Kept The Faith

This day is, in my life, a day to record. I have signed away to a
younger man most of those acres where for many years I have
spent my time and my strength in the labors of a farmer.

There are not so many of us left anymore who know what the
feeling is like to love that land where you have plowed and
harrowed, sowed and reaped, built fences and put up the hay and
herded the cattle.

Now, as the one-time owner of that land, I bid goodbye as to an old and very dear friend. A man and his acres are, after all, not of different kingdoms. The man, the bird, the tree, the clump of grass all have the same Maker, and take their sustenance from the same prodigious earth.

By being human, I trust I have added something to this landscape of hills and valleys, but I could have done nothing without those other forms of life. Now I feel the loss of ties which are formed through labor and association.

Memories are all the harvest that is left.... memories, plus the faith that other hands will do as well or better than mine have done to keep those acres fair to look upon. In a certain way, this land will always belong to me.



The above was found on a single, yellowed-with-age, hand-typed
page that was among my mother’s old family papers (which have
recently come into my possession). No author is given. It could
have been written by my grandfather Percy Philbrick of Fort
Fairfield, Maine. It could have been written by any number of old
farmers across America who, due to advanced age, poor health, or
insufficient finances had to sell their beloved farms.

I wonder, where were the children of this old farmer and those like
him? I’ll tell you. They left the land for “greener pastures”—for
careers in the cities and suburbs. Millions of them left the farm.
They broke their connection to soil and family tradition to pursue
an industrialized version of “the good life.”

In so doing, they and their children would never know a section of
land, a place, like the old farmer who penned the words
above did.

That is a tragedy.

4 comments:

Patti said...

I agree that it IS a tragedy.We have a friend in Kansas who has some of the most beautiful land holdings I have ever seen( no Kansas is not all flat) His grown children are not the least bit interested in farming/raising cattle so I guess when he retires the land will be sold off.....

The BadgerMum said...

It is so incredibly sad, and so frustrating that those older farmers raised children who don't want to inherit the farms, and those of us who are aching for a place to love and to work and to pass on to our own children, don't have it.
:-(

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Patti,

Hopefully someone will get that land who will care for it and not develop it or, worse, build a casion on it.

Badgermum,

Ohhh, you got that right. My thoughts exactly. Many of us who long for land for our family to enjoy and love and care for and use for, hopefully, generations, have our work cut out for us.

I think we are a bit like Nehemiah returning to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem years after the city was destroyed and the Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon.

Phillip Pace said...

The words of this old farmer and Mr. Kimball's post remind me of a song that's always been very special to me... Unlike most songs that are completely abstract, this one brings tons of images and emotions to you...
Sawyer Brown's Outskirts of Town.

Outskirts Of Town

Past the fields of his dreams all the cars drove
Ninety to nothin' towards town
He'd wave and he'd watch and he'd wonder
Then the dust would all settle back down
Well ain't nothin' out there but an old drive in screen
Where Elizabeth Taylor was queen
And like the rest she quit comin' around
To the outskirts of town

They say there's so much out there for you
Maybe he never will know
The buses they load up the dreamers
But leavin' was to far to go
Washed in the blood and surrounded
By the land and the love he had known
Now he'll plant his dreams in the ground
On the outskirts of town

On the outskirts of town he's livin' a dream
Where they weather their storms
Praying down on the their knees
And they hold to each other 'cause they know what they found
On the outskirts of town

He looks past the fields at the sun rise
Watchin' the stars as they fade
He sits on the hood of his pick-up
Thinkin' that he's got it made
Because the prettiest girl that he's ever seen
Lives up the road just a piece
And they're talkin' about settling down on the outskirts of town

(and if you want to play it on your guitar, it D,G, and A)