On a recent service call I came upon a crossroads. In the corner of an adjacent field was a massive concrete cornerpost assembly. There was no fence attached; the two walls of the assembly that met at a 90-degree angle were the only remnants of the old fencelines.
As I drove down the road, every 40 rods there was a smaller though no less impressive concrete wall that had served as a line brace for the long-removed fence. Eventually I came to a pair of even larger concrete braces that bracketed the opening to a lane. The lane was wide, raised above the adjacent fields for drainage, with broad ditches. At the end of the driveway was a huge brick barn with a gabled roof missing large patches of wood shingles, a cluster of oak trees surrounding an empty foundation, and a twisted metal windmill missing its vane assembly.
I've been down that rural road before and that particular mile of road makes me melancholy. At some time in the past century, that farmstead was a showplace. I don't know who owns it now, nor who owned it then, but somebody obviously worked hard to create a legacy for his family. It took time, money and lots of sweat to hand-pour concrete corner and line posts for fences in days before Red-Mix trucks made concrete easier. It took extra work and money to build the barn out of bricks but ensured the building would be there for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The farmer planted oaks around the house, symbols of patience that the slow-growing but durable trees would be there for generations.
Today, the showplace is a windswept inconvenience for the big farmer who now races through the surrounding fields. Was all of the earlier farmer's hard work and dreaming for naught? For unknown reasons the legacy didn't last. Subsequent generations didn't want to farm, didn't have the savvy to keep the operation successful, or made poor choices with the money they inherited. All that's left are a few weather-weary reminders that there once was a farmer with a strong back and a dream.
It makes me melancholy to drive past abandoned farmsteads, that one in particular. I've tried five times to come up with a clever or semi-sage closing to this post, without success. I guess I'll just leave it at, "It makes me melancholy to drive past abandoned farmsteads..."