The Strong Old Man Bought the Farm.
One of the barns and an out-building.
Farm cats found the barns made a good home.
There is a dogwood tree planted in his memory. On the marker below the name and dates is this simple line: “He Bought the Farm”. For those who do not know, to buy the farm is like kicking the bucket, to bite the dust, to croak, to give up the ghost, to go to a better place and other colloquial expressions about death and dying. Each culture must have similar expressions.
I say this man bought the farm twice. That is why the expression is on the memorial marker. His wife told me he would appreciate the message. He was a stern man at times, a real talker all the time, a thinking man and a man whom I dearly loved. My point of view of his personality was tempered differently than those of his several children. He told me he was likely too hard on them, too much of a disciplinarian in their growing years. He had softened in the later years when I knew him best. We became good friends, years apart and many experiences apart yet good friends with a strong mutual respect for each other.
A bluebird house next to a storage shed, seen on a foggy morning
He wanted a small farm. This would be a place to spend time working and thinking and taking in the peace of the land. He bought that farm and spent much time using his extensive mechanical knowledge and skill to refurbish and fix-up. There was always a garden too large to give proper care, hay fields to mow and a huge patch of blackberries ready for the picking in season. With the blackberries came the occasional chigger bite but the berries were abundant and delicious. There were also Mulberry trees, a strange tree for anyone who sees the fruit for the first time. Hanging from the tree are fruits that look like long blackberries, delicious, hard to get to on higher branches and proven to stain fingers a blood red. Those berries appear hanging in the wrong place, on a tree instead of a bush.
An old Dodge truck, painted in John Deere colors
He spent his time redoing the farmhouse, fixing up here and there on out buildings, mowing the fields and watching wild turkeys and deer pass by. He loved the farm and it kept him going strong most of the time until he bought the farm the second time
You might want to imagine this as a simple country home or a place to go when you want to get away from the busy life. In imaginary places, you don’t have the daily chores or the weekend given to re-boarding the large porch around half the house, replacing worn electrical wires and repairing the well. In an imaginary country get away, you go and do what you want around the house and barns. You walk through the fields and into to woods, stirring up a few deer along the way or a fox, perhaps. There is a good chance Brer Rabbit was in the blackberry patch.
Tree row in early morning fog:
A good time to see deer in the field nearby
In reality, this man went to the farm to get stuff done... he liked the work and fix’n up the old place. He got as much joy from that as anything else about his farm. He understood what makes a tractor work, how to tune the engine or fix a broken hitch and make the mower actually mow the fields. In some years, he invited kids and their families out for fall cookouts and hayrides around the farm.
Smoked chicken for a July 4th feast, along with fried corn, corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers and all the salad fix'ns and ice cream...typical for a get-together. At this time, the old man was gone and the marker was at his dogwood tree.
As more years passed, the hayride events stopped but he stayed active tinkering and fixing, always enjoying driving his tractor around the far field across the creek then back up around the barns. He liked to restore and improve the place and indeed he did that up to a week before his last day. I was out there and watched him drive the tractor up the field along the tree rows to the barn .
Once in a while family and friends spend a day together at the farm. There is still a garden an it is still almost too large to handle. He would likely have something to say about that. He always did have something to say, up to the day he bought the farm the second time.
Thomas Haynes is a photographer working out of Clinton, Tennessee, a city just north of Knoxville. His photography is often of a fine arts direction but as in this post, his love of nature takes him again to the Clinch River Raptor Center, a rehabilitation and educational not-for-profit organization.. Visit Thomas and see more of his photography at Facebook
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