Friday, November 19, 2021

Virgil's Farm #T

 As Virgil picked up the pen with which to sign the papers the Rep for the developer said, "We'll go another mil for the five acres not included in these documents."

Virgil twirled the pen in his fingers, moved the Skoal a skotch farther back behind his lip. "With this thirty-five acres you will have the entire section but for only this five acres I'm holding.  My great great grandpa settled on this land, cleared 60 acres and lived out his life here.  My great grandpa cleared another 100 acres and lived out his life here.  Grandpa kept up the good work, opened more land, built bigger barns and lived out his life here.  My daddy finished clearing the section, worked himself into an early grave and passed it on to me.

"I've done well here, raised my family and was a faithful steward of this land.  None of my kids chose to follow in my footsteps and here I am selling out.  Selling out the sweat and dreams of four generations of God-fearing, hard working people.  Y'all don't have enough money to get this last five acres.  My home sits on this property.  I know you have big and glorious plans for turning this place into a place of commerce with a "planned community" and only the good Lord knows what all.

Now here's what I'm gonna do.  I am going to live out my days in that house whilst I watch your bulldozers 'n construction crews tearing up and paving over this paradise, putting in your strip mall and your signs will go up touting your hoity-toity development.  I don't know how much you will destroy, or as you see it, "improve" before I die, but I'ma tell you up front that even when I'm gone you won't get your greedy hands on this five acres.

I have already made arrangements and established a trust to provide for keeping the weeds down and the property mowed, so don't expect to have it condemned.  The taxes will be paid in perpetuity and the house and the equipment will sit right here, rust out and melt into the earth for all I care, but a sign and symbol forever that this place one time produced, produced, I tell you; fed people and meant something.  It will be a reminder that something precious and worthwhile was destroyed for the sake of. . . 

"For the sake of what, I dunno.  Have a good life."

Virgil scratched his signature seven times, put down the pen, arose from his chair and strolled out the door, the heels of his boots clacking loudly on the wooden floor.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

A Flashback and an Update

 I wrote the piece below three years ago.  Deja vu.  I made a similar trip today for a similar reason.  I attended the funeral of another dear friend and the trip home took me past the same scenery.  I had known Marcus since I was a teenager and asked him to serve as my best man when Frieda and I were married in 1955.  

Like my friend Howard, Marcus was born in 1932.  Like Howard, Marcus's love and service to the cause of Christ was unwavering and unquestioned. Over the course of his life he was variously a missionary, a preacher, and a teacher.  But above that he was a faithful and loving husband to Ruth and a loving and caring father to his children; and above it all he loved his Lord, Jesus the Christ.

As I drove past the little limestone house I wrote about below I was gratified to see that it has been redeemed-- someone with loving care has cleaned the yard of  overgrowth, has planted grass and landscaped nicely.  The trim has a new coat of paint, there are curtains in the windows, and there were lights on in the domicile!

Another mile and there stands School in a Soybean Field.  And it, too, has been redeemed!  It is now the home and worship center of Christ Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church which apparently serves its community well, for as I drove by I noted at least a dozen cars parked  in front, and this a Tuesday afternoon.

Thus here I have touched on three stories of redemption.  Marcus, whose Lord redeemed him to service; the old house which someone loved and invested in to bring back to use; and an old schoolhouse which has been rehabilitated by a congregation of worshipers.

These stories make my heart sing, for I, too, have been redeemed!

Marcus Phillippe  1932 - 2021  RIP

A Life Well-lived and A Mystery

Saturday morning I traveled to a city some fifty miles distant to attend the funeral of a very dear friend.  Although Howard was 86 years of age I cannot shake the feeling that he is gone too soon.  Good friends are all too few and they are leaving much too often these days.

I remarked to the grieving widow that Howard no doubt had more friends than anyone else I know for he worked at being a friend.  It was no surprise that friendship was a recurring theme of the memories-- that and Howard's unwavering love for Jesus and his desire that his friends would all come to know Him.

On the drive home I chose to take a route which I had driven day after day some six decades ago, for I lived in that town back then and drove twelve miles to work each day.   As I passed the little country church, three miles to go to reach the school where I had taught-- I started picturing the lay of the land as I had known it back then.  Coming up on the right and a mile before reaching the old school there would be the beautiful Bedford stone house which I had almost coveted in my youth.  What more could one want?  I thought it the epitome of design in residential structures and it was nearly new, having been built a mere half-dozen years before.   Abiding therein was a family who were patrons of the district, prosperous farmers, hard workers, who had two beautiful little flaxen-haired girls who attended our school.  Patty was in my homeroom, she as smart and capable and industrious as one might hope a sixth grade child to be.

There it is.  Same limestone house, same location.  And yet it looks so much smaller than I remembered it, possibly a thousand square feet, probably two bedrooms.  But that was not what most startled me.  The house was abandoned and clearly had been for some time.  The yard was overgrown not only with grass and weeds, but with scrub bushes. Sorry, bedraggled, and forgotten.

There on my left is the cemetery, then School in a Soybean Field apparently also deserted.  I drove on, pondering the fate of the inhabitants of the house I had once admired.  Why?  What happened? Where were those charming little girls now, little girls who would be in their sixties?  Things I'll never know.  The twists and turns that life takes are often imponderables in the broad scheme of things.

But I still wonder.

Howard Barefoot, 1932 - 2018  RIP