The days were warm this past weekend, air-conditioning warm. The bugs were enjoying a break from the rain, and the moist ground was more than willing to give up even more bugs than usual. The grass seemed to have sprouted overnight and it looks as if hay season will be here tomorrow. The landscape has swallowed much of what was visible only days ago. And even though we can no longer see it, we know it is there, the dilapidated old house that is our neighbor. The owners have abandoned it to foreclosure, the renters or squatters or what-have-you's have even packed up and left. The building has long passed unlivable.
It is not the building we have become interested in, however. It is the quiet half-acre adjoining it. It is actually the old home's yard, a separate parcel of land lost to taxes. We acquired it from a local man that had mistakenly bought it at auction and had no need for it. It will soon serve as access to our pasture and as a watering hole for our horses. All this after reclaiming the land, cutting back the trees, removing the old fence posts, fighting with the old barbed wire, and brush hogging the weed choked field. Memorial Day weekend, three days away from work and the city, would be the perfect time to take on such a task.
Initially, my father and I fought our way through the tall grass, surveyed the topography, and formulated a plan of attack. He would mow down the grass while I chainsawed my way through the tangle of pines sitting beside the small spring we planned to use as a water source for the pasture. With plenty of sweat and wood chips flying, the branches piled up quickly. The forks on the tractor carried them away as I moved on to battling the barbed wire. The old strands were matted in clumps of grass that hadn't seen a good mowing (or even grazing) in forever. My hands and calves and jeans bear the marks of that battle. My gloves have been reduced to tatters. The fence poles followed shortly after, pulled one by one out of the ground. The steep lay of the land does not easily lend itself to tractors and other machinery, so much of the work is done with sheer brawn.
By the end of the third day, the land is cleared and ready. It awaits the new fence, the new water trough, the trot of new animals upon it. It is nearly complete. Another weekend of sweat is all that is needed to reclaim this once forgotten parcel. My muscles are sore, to be sure. I am tired. Yet, the sweat and soreness are comforting as I look at the work that has been accomplished. In the end, it is my family's land and they enjoy their time here. The soreness will fade, my body all the better because of it, but their smiles and the legacy of the land will not.