by Paul Stemme americanexpanses.com
I sat on the wooden deck, outside the old mobile home we kept for our trips, nervous and feeling the anticipation of what I was hopefully about to experience. I thought back over the past 32 years since my dad bought our place in the country. In 1982, he purchased 38 acres in Northeastern Missouri, close to Mark Twain Lake, at that time a brand new impoundment built by the Army Corps of Engineers. He made a down payment with a bonus check he got from work, and financed the rest through the owner of the property. At the time, his thoughts were towards using it for recreation, as well as riding the appreciation with an eye towards the future. What he didn’t count on or know was going to happen was the bonding of 3 generations thus far around using the land
. I was but a wee lad of 20 years of age at that time, and didn’t know all the things that would transpire over the next 30 years, nor did I even think about them. Through good times and bad, the land would always be there. Not only as source of fun, but to me, a place of reflection, someplace quiet to observe nature, and a peaceful place to think about the past, the present and the future. No phone, no TV, no outside distraction to interrupt the quiet serenity. Just a place to listen to the crickets and stare at the stars, their brightness undiminished by the city lights. I thought about the wonderful times had there with friends, family and neighbors. From cookouts to camping trips, to hunting and fishing, all being fond memories written on our land, forever etched in my memory bank. These are the good times you’ll think back to when time has made its mark on your life, just as it has started to on mine. My dad, now 85, still goes with us to enjoy the solitude and scenery, knowing the decision he made 3 decades ago still pays dividends today. Knowing we are going there, gives him something to look forward to and plan for, you can hear the excitement in his voice when we talk about the next time we go. You can hear the same excitement in my 15 year old nephew’s voice when we talk about what we will do on our next trip there. 70 years age difference, and still a common bond, all brought about by the land. To me, having the chance to watch nature’s drama unfold is a fascinating experience. From watching the circle of life complete itself by seeing a hawk grab a squirrel for its breakfast, to walking up on newborn deer fawns laying in the tall grass trying to hide from predators as thousands of years has taught them to do, the things you observe and reflect on never end and always change. Others find fascination in the wide variety of plant life that lives there, and how each species thrives in its own niche in the environment. Owning your own piece of land also raises your awareness of the importance of being a good steward of the land. I was planting trees and shrubs to improve the habitat long before it was “cool” to do so. Today, some of those trees are 30 feet tall or taller, a reminder to me that as inhabitants of the earth, we need to give back in some way to make it better than we found it. You get a certain feeling of pride and accomplishment from doing so, know that future generations will benefit from a little effort on your part, combined with letting Mother Nature do what she knows how to do.