January 28 – The Lone Tree

01-28 The Lone Tree post“Lord save us all from old age and broken health and a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.”

~Mark Twain

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There’s a lone tree in a field along Kenneth Road south of the city. It’s a tiny family-owned plot of earth with a sign that proudly boasts “Welcome To Kenneth – Population 10” in drips white paint. A couple of ramshackle barns litter the adjacent field. Along the fence-line on the south end of the property is the family plot; a dozen or so headstones jut out from the island of manicured grass.

Family farms are becoming rare in the post-industrial age, but every now and again there’s a slice of land owned by hardened farm workers, proud to have held onto the family farm, and exclaim with bravado the number of generations their bloodline has worked the soil.

This place is the epitome of the Midwest – open spaces, flat fertile fields, and the whisper of the prairie wind in your ears. There’s a calm to the Great Plains that’s as unique a sensation as standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. An ocean of water flows beneath your feet. On a cloudy day at dusk, there’s electricity in the air – a current strong enough that you can feel it on your skin and the hair on your arms stands up.

There’s nothing more beautiful on this planet than looking across a field uncorrupted by concrete and automobiles, monumental spires and neon light. Our cities are a grand thing, too, but in a different way. And certainly these fields have been sculpted by human hands. But to my mind, a properly run family farm is one of the last places a person can find a healthy balance between human intervention and nature.