The road ahead of me appeared desolate.
A lone mailbox tilted on the side of the road, as if greeting passersby. What stretched ahead were miles and miles of hay fields and grazing land. “It leads to nowhere” many had whispered and turned around as if defeated, making the return trek back to town. Yet what weaved in front of me with every twist of the road and each blade of grass was a tapestry of rural America. The pieces mingled together perfectly, but had often been abandoned in trial.
Nothing came easy in the expansion west. The promise of free land allured many, yet quenched the freedom thirst of many more. Homesteads that are around today are frequently a family lineage of trust: trust that the upcoming generation will enhance or at least continue the dream of the founders. The dream of owning a piece of land and working it to raise a crop and usually a family came with a price: most homesteads hold their own cemeteries as a bleak reminder of the cost.
Cost today is measured in money, something of which homesteaders had little. Their sacrifices came in immeasurable amounts of sweat, blood, time, and tears. Their joy was as immeasurable—a good harvest was shared county wide and a wedding meant a shindig into the wee hours of the night. Celebrations were shared not just by family, but by friends and even slight acquaintances. If you could find the place, you were welcome, but you’d probably be asked to pitch in with chores.
As I sulk over my chores today: mountains of laundry, endless phone calls to make, errands to run… I wonder if we’ve lost rural America. Certainly a full tank of gas and wandering spirit would lead me somewhere remote, but it takes a venture much further out of town than it ever did before and once there seems more ghostly than rural.
Yet it was the sacrifice, the risk-taking, of those brave homesteaders that laid the foundation for agriculture today. Certainly it is growing in productivity, even though the number of places is dropping. Agriculture has set a heart-beat that it will continue for generations to come