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Friday, January 26, 2007

The Farm

I dropped off my daughter’s car at the Honda dealer at 8am this morning. I stopped at the mighty Starbucks on the way and got a Venti Sugar-Free Vanilla Breve Latte—anticipating a long wait at the dealer until my buddy Dave could pick me up a couple of hours later. I carried with me Chuck Klosterman’s new book, “A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Minds” to lunge in to instead of starring at the aquarium in the waiting room or watching Regis and Kelly. Far outweighing the fish, Philbin, or the good read was the little treat that awaited me.

A strong, gravelly, yet distinctly female voice called out and asked me if I needed a ride somewhere. The voice belonged to the woman behind the counter who lit up the room with her smile. I guess she was about 65—though I am terrible at guessing ages. The Honda dealer has a courier service I was not aware of until this lady asked me.

I told her I would love a ride even though part of me was looking forward to the chance to read for an hour. But, I thought it would be nice to save Dave a trip out and, by the smile on this lady’s face, I felt like accepting the ride would give her some sort of joy—even if she was getting paid to take care of me.

She told me to hang tight and pull up a chair because my ride would be there in about 5-10 minutes. I thanked her and cracked open my new book—pretty excited to start a new adventure. I love the feel of a new book—stiff binding. I love the smell of a new book like I used to love the smell of “dittos” in 3rd grade. I love the texture of new paper—especially when it has that recycled-rough cut-heavy weight- texture.

I got about 3 paragraphs in and heard the sweet lady’s voice again. This time, it came from right behind me. I turned around to ask her if she could repeat what she asked—I missed it since I was so involved in the book. “Do you like to read?” I told her I love to read. She sat down next to me and asked me if I like to buy books or borrow them. I told her I like to buy them which can become a problem at times. Nice lady likes to borrow them. So does her daughter. They read so much they can’t afford to buy them. They frequent the library—“an institution” she said, “that some kids today don’t appreciate—with the internet and all.” For ten minutes we talked about books and raising daughters.

She pointed out the van with the big logo on the side that was waiting for me out front. I was sort of sad to end the conversation. I grabbed my half-polished Venti and my book and got in the van.

The gentleman who was driving was, I’m guessing, about 65—though I am terrible at guessing ages. He had me sign a paper and asked, “Where are we headed today?” I directed him to the corner of Robinson and McCain—the church where I work. I asked him if he minded if I read a little. He said, “not at all.” About 30 seconds went by. Then, he spoke up.

“Ahhh. The corner of Robinson and McCain. Seen any ghosts around there?” I asked him if I should be looking out for some—sensing there was a story behind his question. “Oh, yes. Plenty of ghosts.” Then he was quiet. I shut the pages of my new book once more and asked, “Are you willing to tell me about these ghosts because, if you are, I am all ears.” He smiled.

“It all started when my wife’s family came over from England. They settled here in Jackson. Farmers. They bought the land where your church sits. I hear good things about your church, by the way. Young mindset. I like that. Anyway, the property you own has a grand history as well as the property surrounding it.”

For the next 15 minutes I heard amazing stories. I learned about farmers and granaries and slaughterhouses. I heard about dirt roads, trees that are still standing in the same spot, and trees that were planted by the Robinson family—Robinson being his wife’s maiden name and the namesake of the road that made the property line on the east side of the church building.

I saw the first home he ever lived in—where his son was born. He pointed out the apartments that sit north-east of the church and told me there was another operation there they referred to as “the north farm.” He pointed out the pathway they used to walk cows down as he drove extremely slowly through the neighborhood. He told me about “Tom’s” unfortunate accident where his buddy shot a rifle into the trees and the bullet hit some ice—ricocheting and sending a piece of metal directly into the back of Tom’s head—killing him instantly.

We drove in to the parking lot and he told me we were driving on the original driveway to the farm and he pointed out the bushes they used to hide in as kids. I pointed out the piece of land on the north side of the building where we will build a soccer field this summer. I found myself wanting his approval. “That would be a nice use of the land,” he said. “Kids will love playing up there.”

He dropped me off at the church and for some inexplicable reason I got a little choked up as I waved goodbye to him.

Now I am sitting in the office. My mind is spinning. It feels different. I am looking out the window and wondering if my office is sitting where the kids built the fort. I am thinking about change. I am thinking about 1952 when the farm changed hands and the rest home went in across the street. I am hoping I never meet the ghost of “Tom” anywhere.

I am thinking about land. So many wars have been fought over land. Some of that stuff makes more sense to me after hearing about the Robinsons. I am praying we carry on the legacy of the farm by creating good memories here. I am praying I have good stories to tell about the “farm.”