I went by my grandparents’ house yesterday. My grandma wasn’t home (my grandpa passed away almost three years ago), but I drove around the pasture anyway. I spent a good hour over there. I don’t know what I was searching for exactly.
I made my way past the dying barn, just a bunch of rusted tin sheets flapping in the breeze, holding on to collapsed poles and rotted two by fours for dear life. I went through the first of the galvanized metal gates, hung with corroded wire and propped open now since the cows got sold off. I passed the spot where the school buses used to sit. My family used them for storage–you can never have enough storage. ‘The cousins’ used to play in and around those old buses. We threw rocks at the windows and laughed like crazy when they finally gave way, shattering into a gazillion pieces. Many times we got caught; most times we didn’t. My cousin(s) used to talk about fixing one of them up as a party bus. Too late for that now. The buses got chopped and sold for scrap metal.
As I drove down the gravel-strewn, bumpy dirt road grown over with milkweed and broomweed, I saw the rusted tractors we pretended to drive, the gooseneck trailers where we were livestock, and the cottonseed trailer filled and ready for tunnel-making. I saw the dilapidated farming equipment meant to be “fixed up one day” and the large engine (to what I have no idea) around which grew yummy dewberries. I saw the giant grain bins standing like monuments in tribute to the past and the “hay pen” stacked and stuffed with round bales from front to back. I listened for the tractor and for the folks working cows at the arena. I listened for the moos and the snorts and the neighs and the hee-haws. All I heard was wind rustling through the trees and across the weeds and thunks from the grasshoppers dive-bombing my car, bringing me back to the present. Get outta here, lady. There ain’t nothing left. This is our turf now.
I went down through the pasture, passing the cluster of live oak trees on top of a hill in the middle of the field. My uncle talked of building a house there. I’m sure it would have been beautiful. If only he hadn’t died so young.
I pushed on. I made it to the ‘troll bridge,’ the gateway to the “back forty.” The only way in or out is ten or so half-rotted, half petrified planks barely held together with nails from the 1800s spanning a creek so shallow you could drive right through, even if there was water in it (which there is not, and hasn’t been ever since I can remember). Some of the planks bowed up just enough to block my line of sight to the two missing planks on the far side. I managed to make it over and back without popping a tire or denting my undercarriage.
I fear it’s only the start of what is to come. Seeing the place as it is now, and at the same time as it was growing up, makes me tired and sad. I’ve been told there’s still some horses and donkeys left, but I didn’t see them. Maybe they were hiding somewhere on the 800+ acres in fear of being sold off, too. Yes, if I overlook the weeds and the emptiness and the huge hole in my heart, the place does look cleaner, less ‘junked up.’ But, it also looks less lived in and more dead. When I look at the homestead, I mourn the loss of our loved ones all over again, and I feel them cry with me.
I did see some deer though–a lot of deer–in the middle of the day, through the tall grass, in the wide open pasture. At least they have a home now.