[NOTE: This memoir blog post is one of a three part series by Tom Reese III. After a tumultuous two years of moving and career changes, Tom and Megan moved to Missouri in hopes of finding a quieter life. Nothing is promised, but this land is sacred. This three-part series sets the stage for what dreams may come, or what dreams could be changed. We hope you enjoy!]
By Tom Reese III
January 19th, 2017. That’s the day that my life changed, the day the straw broke the camel’s back, the day which started a series of events that was precursed by a giant career change, followed by months of trying out a new job, and ultimately moving everything we had from the Washington DC metro to the middle of nowhere, Missouri. Lost in those details are the kicking and screaming, the “absolutely not” moments, the “it doesn’t make sense” late-night arguments, and the eventual breaking down and being content with wherever we were led next. After much prayer, some fasting, and lots of “wait and see”, we traded in 100k+ earning opportunities for living on a small family farm of about forty acres: dilapidated, old, with a matching drafty house, and zero job prospects. OK Lord, we heard you, we’re here, now what?
Reflecting back at the moments leading up to the decision to move halfway across the country to follow a new dream, each moment sparking a fire full of tinder and fuel just waiting to burn, there’s a realization that you must make a choice to move on and change your life. Standing around constantly wallowing in self-pity destroys your ambition, so if you don’t like where you are in life, then change your life. You know, YOLO and all that hipster speak.
Moving twice in the previous year is tough, even tougher when you are living off of the final drops of your emergency fund, paying cash for hospital bills for your newborn child, and the multiple thousands of dollars for hauling everything cross-country, obliterate your budget. There are many well-intentioned people out there, saying “have you tried this company” or “I heard they pay a good wage” or “there’s a guy who knows a guy where you can’t not [sic] get a job”, and those intentions pile up over time to create a muted response of “thank you” just to get through the dialogue.
So we arrived and surveyed the new land in all its glory.
An old beige house sits weathered in front the property. Technically the house is an addition of an addition, added on top of another addition, and then a garage attached to the middle addition. All the walls are thin, there’s concrete block and brick covering almost every outside wall, aluminum windows, screen doors now acting as interior doors due to the expansion of the house, and any hint of insulation can be summed up into one word: insufficient. There is a quaint backyard with a modest clothesline, some brickwork for a walking path and a rusted-out burn barrel under the old pecan tree. There used to be cattle in the field behind the backyard, but age and the weather have taken its toll and now there’s several fallen trees that need to be addressed before the field is animal-ready. This field, aptly called the “front field”, is where the red barn stands proud but weathered; indeed, like an old veteran who is well past his prime but his face can tell stories without him ever saying a word. Just to the side of the red barn is an old grain silo. Humorously, as the story is told, the older family members had wanted to convert the silo into a smoker, but this project was not added to our list as we didn’t want to use galvanized steel and potentially poison our beloved family.
The red barn houses the most Americana piece of the puzzle: the John Deere tractor. Not to mention some dusty old cars and tools, the likes of which probably hadn’t moved in two decades. Walking into the barn for the first time, alone, there was a sobering moment of nostalgia in the air: this was someone else’s life, someone else’s dreams, a patchwork of culminated hopes and ambitions. The air was heavy, still, and hushed. The former owners of this property had passed away, and not much had been touched except to move personal belongings into the barn for storage. Rotting boards, open tin roof sections mended by fiberglass panels, finger writing on dusty metal panels showcasing the name of someone loved by someone else, red paint precariously clinging to wood fibers, all of these unique characteristics took time and negligence to produce something of splendid beauty.
Going further, beyond the front field, is the next row of fencing that makes up the “middle field”: here is where a silver shed sits attached to a large lean-to. Erected as the main meeting point for all three fields, the unit is full of old tractor equipment, tangled messes of barbed wire, gates formerly used to partition each field, and the odds and ends of metal linkages and small animal cages. Best advice is to mind your step, groundhogs have made this area their home over the years, and any resemblance to a level dirt floor is now more closely associated to the gentle rolling hills of the shire. Snakes live here, and trace evidence of vermin and fowl as well.
The last field is met by a final fence row highlighted by a terminal gate leading you to its pasture. On the Eastern side of the field, concealed by mature trees and a barely noticeable man-made hill, is a small pond with a hand-built wooden dock. The dock has seen better days, as milky photos could prove, but there is still a surprising amount of fish still swimming in this quarter-acre pool. From this small mound you can survey the Northern-most boundary, turn around, and head back home. Sage advice says find another path home, like following the creek which borders the entire West edge of the property: a creek where you have to continuously chase off trespassers from fishing on your land without permission, and obvious deer stands sitting incredibly close to your property line and facing your direction. Nothing to see here, nothing to worry about.
We’re pretty poor right now (no income), and we are terrible at this (anything to do with farming), and there is zero agreement on how to approach each project (my function over her form). Our dreams are bigger than our budget, our hopes bigger than our dreams. We have no idea how long this season will last, or even if we will end up making this our forever home, or not. Our minds are full of projects; however, even with all the hopes of bees, and cattle, and sheep, and deer, and a woodshop, and a forge, and a completely revamped house, there is a noticeable murmur of acknowledgement in understanding this going to take quite some time to tackle each project and make these dreams a reality.
Then the reality hits home, at some point you need to start…something…anything. Megan and I would write down jargon and diagrams on notepads and graph paper, fantasizing about box gardens, ten-foot deer fences, wood equipment, and tools that were way beyond our budget at the moment. We watched hours upon hours of tutorials together, went to classes together, and ultimately decided to pursue two projects this Spring: making a beehive and preparing a garden plot. What happened next should be obvious at this point, we tossed and turned and had no collaboration as to how these projects would look, where the money was going to come from, or even what they should look like in the long run. Funding was found by some old bonds left from Megan’s dear grandmother (rest in peace), and the garden would have to be started by good ole fashioned sweat equity.
We have a shovel. We have a start.
All of these circumstances do not negate the absolute fun we’ve had here in this little town: precious memories that will last a lifetime, like deciding to walk outside when it’s -2 in nothing but briefs, or when an entire 500-gallon tank of propane was emptied in just over a month (I told you this house was drafty), playing board games with neighbors almost weekly, or being able to harvest firewood hewn from the very trees downed on the farm of your heritage. There is a roof over our head, there is food on the table, there is a neighbor next door with family tales only he could remember, there’s old tools to be oiled, work to be done, and a place to call home for now. In all of these circumstances, we count ourselves as rich.
The living room is no longer cold, a fire now burns in the late hours of the evening. Spring is just around the corner.
About the Blogger:
Hi, I’m Tom Reese—a reluctant addictive personality, where “close-enough” is the measure of perfection. My storage area is full of para-cord, disc golf memorabilia, ammo, not nearly enough 10mm sockets, fishing gear, hunting clothes that must’ve shrunk two sizes, and empty boxes full of future ambitions. I’m not quite mid-life, but it’s gaining on me. The best part of me is my wife, Megan, and our baby girl. What’s important to me? Christ. Family. Forgiveness. Cigars. Bourbon. Hot sauce.
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