Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Buried in the Back Yard

When I was about six years old, the country was in a frenzy of building interstate highways. We lived out in the country, but suddenly we found that I-75 was about to be extended through our area. It wasn't going to go through our property, so we didn't have to move, but it was going to be too close for comfort. An investor decided that our land right there at an I-75 exit would be a smart buy, so we sold it and moved about a mile and half down the road, away from the highway. When I say we moved, I mean we MOVED. Houses and all. (My grandmother's house and land were in the deal, too.) At that age, I thought it was normal to see your home put on the back of a truck and driven off down the road.

A few things were built there around the interstate: a couple of gas stations and convenience stores, and a motel. But probably not as much as the investor expected. Our land soon grew back into thick woods, and stayed that way for the next forty years. My parents still live on that second tract of land on down the road, still in the country.

Then one day not too long ago, I turned off the interstate to go visit them and got the shock of my life. The woods where our house used to be--as well as a lot of acres surrounding them--had been bulldozed and had just disappeared. Nothing was left but red clay dirt on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see. A sign proudly advertised that a development of multi-family and single-family housing as well as shopping and restaurants is on its way. I've heard rumors of a super Walmart. For years, I figured all this was coming. Still, it was a shock.

I noticed another oddity in that barren field. One mound of dirt had been left. I don't mean a random pile, but something that almost looked like one of the Indian mounds we have in this area. A couple of days ago I heard that three Confederate soldiers, a man and his two sons, are buried there on what used to be their land. Their descendants have been in a battle with the developers. Most want the graves left alone, but one wanted them moved to the cemetery of a nearby church, where other family members from the era are buried. The case went to court. The developers won.

I've felt deeply affected by all this for a number of reasons. First, the graves weren't actually on our land, but they sure were close. I guess thinking that those soldiers were back there, the other side of our property, and I never knew it--well, I am a writer, you know! As for the church they're being moved to, it's the church I grew up in. I was baptized there, and I was married there. I feel sad at how everything's changing. That little piece of country I loved so much will never be the same. The woods can't stay. Even the folks in their supposed "final" resting place can't stay.

I guess we never really appreciate what we have until it's gone, do we?

On a more uplifting note, I definitely feel the beginnings of a story coming on.