We sold the family farm a few months after Dad died. I said my final goodbye to that place as I locked the front gate behind me for the last time; I’ve never gone back. There is no divorcing the old man from those fields and I know my heart couldn’t bare to try. My sisters drove back by the place a few years ago and found the woods across the way from the farm completely cleared; tire tracks had replaced the trails carved by the footfalls of my childhood spent navigating cat’s claw vines and sumac patches. Heavy equipment parked where we used to play hide and seek, shoot squirrels, and get poison ivy. We had lost another part of our world and we grieved for that place as we had grieved for Dad, there was no divorcing the two. If nature is the moral arena of man, then that forest was our Colosseum, and now it’s just a subdivision.
Sometimes I wonder how much that place has changed. What of the wildflowers, are they still there? Dad had tossed wildflower seeds along the gravel drive between the fields of garlic, tomatoes, and blackberries. They took two years to bloom, but when they did, the Indian blankets and wild poppies were as beautiful as he said they would be. Dad was the kind of man who could turn a patch of wild flowers into a “told you so.”
I wonder about the hummingbirds, what of them without us to fill their feeders? What of the indigo buntings and scissor-tailed flycatchers without those of us who know their names and songs? I never had the opportunity to warn the folks who bought the place against upsetting the phoebes that nest on the front porch. The thing about phoebes is they either tolerate you or they don’t, their allegiances are as mysterious as their harassment is permanent. I’m sure, by now, at least one person has caught the ire of those birds; the hell wrought by them is as matter of fact to them as it was for us. Every morning, Dad and I used to drink our coffee on the porch watching as the blankets of fog that covered the eastern fields were slowly pulled back by the light of dawn. This ritual observance was afforded to us by those birds, he and I enjoyed the herald of each new day unaccosted, while my sister couldn’t so much as answer the door without the phoebes taking aggressive action. Here, I must mention that she and I are identical twins, so while the transgression she committed against the phoebes, or how they could tell she and I apart, may never truly be known, the time we all spent discussing the possible theories was not wasted and greatly enjoyed.
I also wonder about the fields; what of them without us to toil in them? What of their fruits without us to bless them? Out near the middle of the southern field, there is a sandy barren patch where grass doesn’t grow. To the uninitiated, that spot could be mistaken as cursed but it was just where Dad would get the tractor stuck in the mud every spring. To us kids, that fallow ground was a monument to his stubbornness and to whomever owns the place now it is just as an unanswered question: “What the hell happened here?”
I’ve wondered an awful lot for awful long. What of my brothers and sisters and me? What of us without the farm and without him? Why did Dad have to die? Were his last breaths a freedom from their restless tides and did he rise up and seek God unencumbered or is he just gone? These are things I wonder, things I’ll never know or seek out for knowing. There are things what oughtn’t be seen nor sought. I will never go back to the farm or run in those fields again, the stars crossing along that ridge line is something I’ll never see again. I will never get to watch Dad’s truck driving up the gravel road or the dogs rushing to greet him again. I will never open the front gate or hear the sighs of its hinges ever again.
We don’t get a choice in what we remember and we don’t get to choose what we forget. I chose to stay behind on the day my sisters drove back to the farm. I’m thankful I never saw the place where our farm used to be. Nobody gets a say in what haunts them and rarely does anyone deserve the mercy of what doesn’t.
– K. Faye
Oh, I'm a good old Rebel, now that's just what I am; For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn! I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won, And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.