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James R. Stout

A Piece of Heaven

            I’ve been reflecting on the years that I have lived in the country. It was always a dream of mine to one day live on my grandparent’s farm. However, it didn’t seem like it was ever going to be possible. In 2007 my mother and her siblings finally divided the 360 acres that had been inherited from my grandmother after her death in 1989. I won’t go into how it came about, but the land was not divided equally. Well, sort of. My mother did receive 89.4 acres which technically was ¼ of the farm. There were four siblings, but one had sold his portion in 1990 to my aunt and uncle. So, they each got more land than my mother.

            In 2007 I moved from Houston to Huntsville in order to be closer to my parents and therefore be a help to them. I was fortunate enough to have a job that allowed for me to move out of Houston. The idea started to take hold again on living at the farm. I could cover the same territory from the farm as I did from Huntsville and since my “office” was wherever my home and car were located, there was no reason that I couldn’t move to the farm. Mom and Dad were excited about the prospect. They knew that I would be able to keep an eye on things and enjoy living on the farm. So, in early 2009 my mother gave me 6 acres to put a house on and homestead. I moved into my new house later that year and for the past 11+ years I have lived on the farm. I pass by the old farmhouse every day and I have explored the entire 360 acres relentlessly in my side-by-side. I have documented the land and remnants of the farm (house, barn, shacks, and old corrals) with my cameras.

            My father died in 2016 and my mother followed him in early 2018. By that time, I inherited half of her remaining land giving me a total of almost 45 acres. When my mother died, I was in good physical shape. No problems with my health other than the usual aches and pains of being in my 60’s. But something went wrong. Within a year I started to have some issues with balance and mobility. Now, 2 years and 6 months after my mother’s death, the nerve damage that was discovered has worsened with leaps and bounds. Pardon the pun. I no longer can hike on my own land. I no longer can do the many things that are necessary to maintain a small ranch. I can’t build fences or repair them when needed. The strength in my legs just won’t stand for it. So, what has been a difficult decision was to sell my land and house and move closer to my daughter, doctors, and places such as a decent grocery store. I will no longer have to drive 72 miles round trip to go buy groceries. I prayed about this decision and asked God to show me his will where this is concerned.

            In early July I contacted an old friend from high school who is a premier realtor in the Houston area. She referred me to a colleague in my area. Within two weeks the house was listed. On the 9th day after it was listed, I had an offer to buy the house and land. I don’t have the closing date yet, but it will likely be no later than the middle of September. A big change is coming my way.

            I sat on the front porch the other evening and watched as 7 deer grazed in the meadow in front of my house. The scenery once again gave me a sense of peace. The pastures, the trees, and the wildlife were soothing to my soul. But I also thought of the many things that over the next few years will need to be done. Things that I won’t be able to do. I considered the joy that will be mine when I get to see my grandchildren daily. I thought about the convenience of stores, a bank, and other necessary places that will be a welcome change to my life. Our lives are filled with changes. Sometimes they are so innocuous that we don’t realize that they have happened. And, sometimes they are momentous changes that are pivotal in our lives. This new change is one of the latter.

            I will miss this place. I will miss it a lot. But I’m ready for this change and I will embrace it as part of life and a change sanctioned by God. I’ll leave you with a little list. A list of the wildlife that I see or have seen while living here. Some of them are in the city too, but most are not. And even those that are seen in the city are not as abundant as they are here. Here goes!

  1. Squirrels – lots and lots of squirrels. Gray ones, brown ones, black ones, and I even saw an albino squirrel one day.

  2. Rabbits – lots and lots of rabbits. I’ve even made friends with a few along the way. They would come up to my back door and I would feed them lettuce and those little baby carrots.

  3. Birds – there are times Alfred Hitchcock could film a movie here when it comes to birds. And the variety! Gobs of cardinals, wrens, mud swallows, blue jays, mockingbirds, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, bluebirds (they are so beautiful), Baltimore orioles, crows, pelicans, mallards, hawks of different types, vultures, and I even had a bald eagle build a nest in the top of a dead tree a few years ago. However, the tree was downed by a storm and the eagle went wherever he went. There are also seasonal birds such as Robin Red Breast. Sometimes these Robins are so thick that they carpet my yard. There are doves aplenty as well. And the majestic owls. Barn owls and screech owls are the most plentiful. To tell the truth, there are many other species of birds and too long to list here.

  4. Coyotes – spotted them many times but hear them many more times. There’s usually two packs involved. I have no idea if they are calling each other names or just passing the latest news along, but the sound is both lonesome and peaceful.

  5. Foxes – the gray foxes (I belong to this group!) are larger, but the red foxes are astonishingly beautiful animals.

  6. Armadillos – I do not like these critters and there are way too many of them. They dig holes and mess up the yard. They are one of only two animals that I will shoot on sight.

  7. Wild Hogs – this is the other animal that insights me to get my gun. They are extremely destructive to the pastures. They will literally dig holes 3 feet deep and 6 feet wide. I had to have a hog wire fence put up around my yard to keep them from continually digging up parts of the yard during the night.

  8. Bobcats – these cats are not exactly prone to let you see them, but on many occasions, I’ve caught them in my headlights on my way home after dark.

  9. Cougar – to tell the truth, I haven’t actually seen one here. However, I have seen the evidence of one and a few years ago my uncle hired some guys to repair fencing on his part of the land. One of the workers lost a few years when a full-grown cougar jumped up from behind a large log that the worker was heading for to sit and eat his lunch.

  10. Racoons – lots of these critters. You have to make sure and have a good tight lid on a garbage can. They will chew on anything.

  11. Beaver – there are two large creeks nearby that have beaver dams and occasionally you’ll get a glimpse of one. If you are patient and willing to stand quietly for a while, then you’ll hear the slap of their tails on the water.

  12. Deer – there are an abundance of deer. So much so that you have to keep a sharp eye out when driving down the county roads because they will run out in front of you and they are prone to lose their minds when they do! The biggest buck that I’ve seen up here was a 12-pointer. I love to watch the fawns trailing behind their momma’s in the pastures. On more than one occasion, I was out on the tractor mowing and a fawn suddenly jumped up and ran away. Their mothers sometimes hide them in tall grass while they are doing the laundry or something or other.

  13. I know that I’ve already mentioned birds, but there are quite a few road runners around here. They don’t fly, but besides their running, they also can jump pretty high.

  14. Snakes – yes, there are a few snakes around here. But in the 11 plus years that I have lived in my house, I have not seen a poisonous snake near the house. But you’ll see copperheads a lot on the roads, water moccasins in a creek or tank, and I once saw a timber rattler, but it was three miles from the house. I did see a coral snake once about a mile from my house. I sent it to live with another snake. A place much hotter than Texas! There are also plenty of snakes that pose no harm to humans. Chicken snakes, blue streaks, king snakes, and brown garden snakes.

  15. Besides the wildlife, there are also plenty of horses and cows that you can see and show your grandchildren. My closest neighbor has several of both.

      Well, I know that I am forgetting some of the animals, but the new owners will no doubt enjoy spotting the animals and watching them.

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