I moved to this farm at age eighteen, and except for two years in south Georgia professing to be a “college man,” I’ve spent most of my days here. We have cleared her land and drained her swamps. We have protected her from erosion and fenced her perimeter, cross-fenced her and then decades later, tore out old fences and replaced them with new ones. We have grown corn in her soil and grazed cattle on her fields. We have toiled and dropped sweat on every inch of her. I have stood in her center and praised God for the rains that nourished her and cursed the hot sun that baked her fertile soil—and long ago, she became my mistress.
To some degree, she defines me, this mistress of mine. She is an extension of me, and is in part who I am—and I love her.
But she is not perfect. Because of her demands, she has caused me to miss softball games, to be late for family gatherings, or forget anniversaries. Some would say she is the cause of the ending of my marriage, as mistresses often are. But I forgive her. She is too much a part of me to not to.
There has never been a moment when I considered leaving her. And I suppose I shall some day grow old and die within her borders.
But attitudes change and priorities shift. So who knows . . . If a decade from now, you find yourself in Raleigh, North Carolina, and you walk into a retail store and are greeted by an old man who says, “Hi, welcome to Walmart,” and you think to yourself that the man looks familiar—or maybe you’re at a baseball game and see a grandfather cheering on a 12-year-old boy named “Jack,” who just pitched a no-hitter for the Raleigh Ravens or the Raleigh Roosters (or whatever they call themselves) and you think: That guy reminds me of an old farmer I once knew in Alabama, then come over and introduce yourself. It’s just me, having finally figured out what’s important in life.