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This Land Goes on Forever: A Letter Home From the Family Farm

by Fred First

If the children of Southwest Virginia don’t grow up with strong ties to place, they will be less likely to strive to sustain the land’s productivity, beauty and character across the generations. This fictional letter home from the family farm by 13-yr-old Molly speaks indirectly to the future of our soil, air, water, forests and open spaces.

Do plan to attend Land’s Sake: Floyd’s Journey Ahead on April 16 at Floyd County High School, a day focused on the beauty, bounty and future of a place called home. Details at http://is.gd/HXSpsr

Dear Daddy,

I promised Gramma I would send you a letter, so I’ve been writing this for a few days. I’m glad you let me come here for the summer. I’m staying in your room upstairs when you were a boy. I found your name you wrote on the wall inside the closet. It is fun to think about waking up like you told me, hearing just the creek and the crickets and sometimes an owl. We leave the windows open all night. Early this morning, it sounded like waves at the beach but it was the wind in the trees.

I get up early here and it’s okay because there is a lot to do. And the mornings are cool and smell fresh, like sheets dried on the clothesline. Gramma and Grampa let me go to the hen house and get the eggs by myself, and then we had some for breakfast, and bacon, too. I’m always hungry and think food tastes better in the country.

I have my own stick for hiking. We went a long way today and Skipper went with us and he doesn’t need a leash. This land goes on forever! Grampa told me about him being a boy here when they didn’t have much. They planted corn with a mule and the big rocks they got out of the ground they made a wall with when he was little and they are still there under the leaves. He showed me. He said you moved some of the smaller rocks by yourself, so this is your wall too along the creek. Before I come home, I’m going to add some rocks on top.

Grampa says the big trees by the water are sycamores. They have smooth bark that looks like camouflage. I climbed up not too high in a big one that leans. He showed me where one used to be by the creek that had your initials, but it was gone now. Today Gramma showed me Queen Anne’s Lace and Spicebush (It smells nice!) It makes them seem like friends, and next year when I come back, I’ll know them already.

Wow! I didn’t know how much stuff to do there could be in the country. Our back yard at home doesn’t seem very big now that I’ve explored here on the farm. Tomorrow we’re going fishing again–Gramma’s coming too! Then I’m taking my butterfly net into the field. Hay mowing is next week, but today, there are dragonflies and butterflies and stuff in the tall grass.

The farm was bigger long ago, Grampa said, but the highway took some of it, and there are houses like ours on some. We can’t see that from here. I’m just glad we still have this place. And he said it is protected and would stay this way, even when I’m grown, that I don’t have to worry about it being a parking lot or anything. It will still be fields and meadows and creeks with minnows. I can come back to my favorite tree by the frog pond and watch the blackbirds in the cattails like I do every afternoon.

When we get rain, we’re going to plant more trees. I have my own shovel! I’ll get to see them growing next summer. Grampa taught me this (he made me remember it): that a wise and generous man plants the trees, but others will enjoy their shade. I think he means that he’s doing this for me and my children some day, because he’ll be gone when they are big trees. They will remind me of him and Gramma. It will be our forest, all of us.

I am punching my initials in a can lid and we are going to hang it with wire from a limb on the tree above the pond. When I’m a momma, this will be where my kids come. I’ll show them where everything is. It will still be here. Knowing this makes me really happy and thankful. Can I bring a friend next summer?

Love, Molly

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