Monday, August 16, 2010

That's All of Tara You'll Ever Get

I once engaged in a pitched battle with the elementary school librarian over whether or not she would permit me to read Gone With the Wind when I was in the eighth grade. Her contention was that it was "inappropriate" because it contained "language" (Rhett's parting line in the movie and book are a little different, but both contain the same expletive). I won that round, which I regretted when I was assigned to her sister's freshman English class the following year.

At any rate, everyone remembers the turnip scene and the "tomorrow is another day" scene. The one that always stuck in my mind was when Scarlett hurls the dirt clod at the former overseer (who is threatening to buy Tara after The War), exclaiming as it hits him: "That's all of Tara you'll ever get!" I could identify with that, because Mom's people struggled to hang onto their property after the War devastated them financially. Scarlett's pathological desire to keep Tara intact isn't particularly shocking if you grew up in the South.

My sister and I are heirs to a thousand acre farm in the western half of the state that has been in our family since it was given to us as a Revolutionary War service grant in the late Eighteenth Century. It has never left the direct line of descent- which passes through no less than Robert E. Lee's great aunt. Our family is old, and venerable in the musty, somewhat stuffy Southern sense. With this farm comes a moral obligation to keep it intact, within the family, but neither my sister nor I have any children.

What in the blue blazes am *I* going to do with a farm?

I've always known, subconsciously, that the day was coming on which I'd have to ask that question. Our youngest uncle occupies the house on our farm, while his farm, which is another thousand acres and one that was purchased in the Nineteenth Century after the finances recovered, is right across the road- "across the road" is a little deceptive, too, since the driveway to the house from the road is nearly a mile long. Luckily, that's going to my two male first cousins, both of whom already actively farm. My mother has offered the opinion that at some point, we should engage one or both of them as our farm managers- or sell the farm to them.

Once, I got a wild hair to drive over (it's two hours away from Smalltownland and almost four from where I currently live) and show the farm to a friend of mine. I'd really had it with his making fun of how I could quote genealogy and explain without really thinking about it how certain families in Smalltownland are related: I wanted to show him what it all really means. I hauled him out in the middle of the driveway, opened my arms wide and said, "As far as the eye can see, all of this is ours. It has been ours since the end of the American Revolution. One day, half of it will be mine."

He still refers to it as my "Lion King" moment.

Just what I'm going to do with it, exactly, is a mystery. All I know is that it's not leaving the family. I saw someone else's legacy sold to satisfy his father's selfishness...and I am damned if I let go of mine without a fight.

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