Harvesting another’s crop

Published 9:53 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012

“You’ve got quite a place here,” the gentleman said, as he gazed out over the farm.

I, too, surveyed the landscape.

From up the dusty lane, I remembered my grandmother’s words that her husband brought her down that path at night to show her the farm he wanted to buy. At night to better acquire her consent to purchase an underkept piece of land.

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Down the back was the Milton Field. Thirty acres of what was once a carpet of wiregrass. Men spent long days with grubbing hoes in the July heat digging up that infernal grass, knowing that land growing wiregrass well also produces good peanuts.

To the right, those men waded into timber with crosscut saws, axes, mules and block-and-tackle. Broad backs shimmering with sweat brought massive trees thundering to the ground, afterward spending months digging up and burning stumps.

There stood the old house where grandmother cooked and cleaned for workers such that meals ran together.

Around the bend close to that stream, Granddad loaded up a pickup truck load of hogs and hauled them clean to Richmond, just in time to make the payment on the farm.

Up at that house, on cold winter nights, I watched my father bring in bushel baskets lined with burlap bags. Inside were wet, squealing, just-born piglets, which he set by the fire to get warm.

Over there he pulled a heifer’s calf at midnight.

And that field out front. It’s an awful good peanut field. But after planting and weeding and digging and shocking those peanuts one year, he and my mother stood and watched hurricane Hazel blow those shocks clean across the field like bowling pins.

Over there is the Boone Field. One droughty summer they say it hardly picked enough corn to pay for the fuel to pick it.

And that big slab of concrete under the shelter. My father and his brother mixed and poured that by hand. In that shed they straightened bent nails on rainy days.

Back there is where they made a pond and to the right they cleared some land to straighten the rows, spending half the summer picking up roots.

“You’re right,” I told the visitor. “It is a nice place. But to tell the truth, I really didn’t have much to do with it.”

Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald. His email address is rexalphin@aol.com.