from sky to seed

They who came before us

To follow up with last week’s post on a ghost town in Nevada, I thought I’d share this one photo of an abandoned spring a couple acres behind our house. The guys found this while they were brush hogging old trails on the perimeter of the farm. Best as we can tell, it was a hell of a spring, at some point. Whoever used it thought enough of it to build a field stone retaining wall and spread a little concrete at the source.

This is the second old “developed” spring that we’ve found on the farm. They amaze me. A spring at all–what a feat of nature! Where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, water came from snowmelt springs and rain, never from the ground up, this miracle of rock turned to water. And also amazing, somehow magical, to think of the people who walked to the springs from their now gone houses, who carried water on these grass paths. The conversations in those hollows, their lost touch on stone.

I’ve started digging a bit into the history of our place and found an online version of a book that came out in 1897 simply called, The History of McDonald County, Missouri  and poked through its 400-some pages, looking for anything related to our home. This passage, written more than 100 years ago, really moved me:

“The early settlers of McDonald County, like those of other localities, located along the creeks and river bottoms. Here were abundant springs of pure, cold water, the streams were alive with fish and an abundance of game ranged near these water courses. The soil was extremely fertile, producing almost miraculous crops of all grains and vegetables, while the uplands called “barrens” or “flat woods”, were considered almost worthless for agricultural purposes. Filled with a restless desire for pioneer life, the inhabitants of other states began to settle in these lonely valleys soon after the state was admitted into the Union. Here, in the solitude of the forests, with only the breezes whistling in the trees, the ripplings of the water or the cries of wild animals and birds to wake the stillness, these men made their homes. Here many, many miles from any town or post office they reared their families, and here some of them have long ago found their narrow homes.”

On the backside of the farm, there’s a shady hollow that was once a homestead site. Years ago, the original county highway cut across it. And when you go to this site, you can just feel the goodness of the people who lived there. Jon always remarks on it when we pass through it. He says, “Just always seems to me that the people who lived here were sweet people. That they were happy.”

I love Jon most when he makes these poignant remarks. To witness something so tender coming from his mouth… the guy just wins my heart all over again. Makes me happy. Makes me remember why I’m here, why I came to live in the Ozarks at all.

We talk about death and aging a lot. We both have older parents, and he’s twenty years older than me, and we live on a farm where crappy brutal things happen all the time, and it’s just a fact of life. So I hope that when we’re dead and gone, some future people will pass through the land we lived on and say to themselves, Sweet, happy people lived here once.


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