Eventually this moment had to come, this decision had to be made, this new direction in life had to be taken. For 37 years we have loved living on our farm, caring for this land, grooming a small island of life in a toxic sea of industrial agriculture, healing its wounds, regenerating its landscape, shaping it to become a refuge for wild things. But the span of a human lifetime is brief, and we are nearing the end of our time on this place.
We are selling our farm in the North Country, fortunately to people who have the same values and land ethic that we do, and we will be moving to a city in the course of the next year. Our chapter in the story of this 150-year-old parcel of farmland is coming to a close. Compared to the 12 or 13 millennia that prehistoric peoples have lived in this stunningly beautiful limestone bluff and river valley land, the small Driftless Plains area of the North Country that was bypassed by the four great glaciations (Nebraskan, Kansan, Illinoisian, and Wisconsin), our time here has been only a blink of an eye. But in human terms, it has been an investment of half our lives. We will miss this place so much.
Like the athlete (or writer) who sees his skills diminishing, I know it is better to leave the game one year too early than one year too late. It is a blessing and a grace to know when one is past his peak and has taken his first steps on that inevitable downward path. My ability to take care of this land is slipping away, and this place deserves better than that. On the upside (although it is a chore that does not truly contribute to our conservation and preservation efforts), I will not miss snow-blowing a quarter-mile of steep driveway when winter storms come howling, nor will I wax nostalgic about cutting up “widow-maker” trees that have been toppled by high winds onto pasture fences.
We are looking forward to new adventures that we will discover in a town environment. Hopefully, the transition will not be too awkward an experience. The house we are having built is bordered by open land to the north and west that will calm us with countryside vistas each morning, and the mid-sized city to which we are moving has lots of green spaces, parks, and hiking and biking trails.
Yes, I will be forced to evolve from the rural Crazy Old Coot persona I have cultivated over the previous 30-plus years, but maybe I can reform my character to become a Crazy Urban Coot. A stocking cap, mirror-lensed sunglasses, and a walking stick would be a good start. So would bib overalls.
This move will also be a dividing line that separates my outdoor adventures in the wild from my more tame activities in domesticated surroundings. Although, since I know so little about urban environments, some of my new activities could be more wild than I predict. At the very least, I will have to adjust to the concept of a No Smoking area when I light a cigar.
My blog essays, stories, and poems will almost certainly reflect this change. I doubt that neighbors will approve of my sighting-in a newly scoped .22 rifle in the alleyway south of our new house, or taking some practice shots with my crossbow, so hiking and biking and observing the curious wildlife species at the local tavern may replace my former pastimes. I have already begun writing the manuscript for my next novel. The plot and characters could wander off in unexpected directions before long.
An aside. This anticipated change in my literary subjects and style is the reason I suggest that readers of my outdoor sports essays and stories should buy my two most recent books:
Coot Dogs – An Anthology of Dog Stories by a Crazy Old Coot
Coot Shoots – A Crazy Old Coot’s Anthology of Hunting and Shooting Essays and Stories
These books might be called “The Best of Coot” collections. Arguably, readers who buy those two anthologies could forego acquiring the previous seven: Crazy Old Coot, Old Coots Never Forget, Coot Stews, A Limit of Coot, North Country Tales, A View from the North Country, and A Slow Walk through the North Country. You would, however, miss the enjoyment of reading my three novels: Hunting Birds, Ivory and Gold, and The Executioner’s Face.
All my currently published books are available at Amazon’s Jerry Johnson Author Page. My request is that you purchase all 12 of the books I have written because my transition to the urban coot life could be more expensive than anticipated. For example, I may have to buy an electrically powered lawn mower and also border my yard with an “invisible fence” to limit Abbey’s wanderings.
As the fall and winter months progress, my intent is to keep readers informed about our move. At present, the story is monotonously mundane. Do we want slider windows or double-hung windows installed in the new house? That sort of thing.
This October, I will have one more season to perch in a tree stand awaiting opportunity to harvest a whitetail doe for the coming year’s supply of venison. That will be a good final inning, a chance to look out over the river valleys that border our farm and lock those images in the vault of my memory. Hopefully, I will avoid most of the calamities of previous years’ bow hunts and end the game with a walk-off RBI.
That reminds me: I should be able to buy season tickets for the Northwoods League baseball team that plays in our new hometown. Maybe there will be a Smoking Section for those Old Coots who remember the days when the scent of cigars and Grain Belt beer wafted through the grandstand on a summer evening.