The Letter

One day i opened my p.o. box and in amongst the bills was a letter addressed to me from a real estate company in Dallas. i couldn’t imagine what they wanted. Neither the real estate agent i used nor the sellers’ had anything to do with Dallas. They wanted to buy my land. People with houses sold when they were ready to move into a bigger, fancier house. People with land sold when the bank was days away from taking it. Nobody built a ranch from the ground up and then woke up one morning and said, “you know, i’ve tired of the scenery here. I think i’d like to start over on a different plot of land somewhere else.” No, the successful ranchers and farmers handed down their properties from generation to generation and if they could keep it 100 years, they could go to Austin and get a plaque declaring it a historic property and get their picture in the paper. If they weren’t as lucky, they’d realize they couldn’t pay the bank what they owed and after all other options were exhausted, they’d have to sell before they were badly in the rears and the bank foreclosed. The bank was like a modern day grim reaper to a land owner. If you saw them coming up the drive in their pressed suits and gelled hair you best start hiding your things of value and praying to God to save the life you’d come to know. The best relationship with a bank was called “auto-pay”. On a certain day each month the money you owed them was withdrawn from your account. They never spoke to you and you never spoke to them. They never saw you and you never saw them. That was the best relationship a land owner could have with a bank and if you achieved it, you’d do anything to keep it that way because what you did not want to see was a car full of suits with gelled hair coming up the drive with papers in their hands. I had been aware of this and i made sure the money was in my account each month. When i saw the properties leading up to mine with “for sale” signs in the field my heart sank. I thought, “There’s another one that didn’t make it.” Nobody cut down trees, cleared fields, burned brush, built livestock pens and barns, a house from scratch while living in an rv in the yard, brought electricity from the road to the property, built green houses and chicken coops, planted fruit and pecan trees, a jungle gym and rope swing for the kids, and then just left. The money had run out. That’s what the letter said. It said that many land owners in my area had been offered a price that they found acceptable and this company in Dallas thought i should take their offer too. They had written about how many of the land owners in my area had good and novel intentions for the land when they bought it, how they’d all had hopes and dreams, and life hadn’t gone as they had planned. Unforeseen circumstances got in the way and they weren’t able to handle the responsibilities and burdens of owning land any longer. The letter had stated that they offered to take the “burden” of maintaining a property off of these peoples’ hands. They painted a picture as if they’d done these people a favor; saved them from a whole lot of undesired work for a fair price. I knew that wasn’t the case. If they had sold their ranches to a real estate company they didn’t have the money to keep them. If the company had bought the land, they thought they could sell it for plenty more than they spent. Nobody did anybody a favor. It was just business. At the end of the letter the company had written a story about me; their statistical prediction of my future trajectory in land ownership. They listed plenty of fancy numbers; the amount of land owners that were foreclosed upon in my area, the amount of land owners they had contacted that accepted their offers, and the rising amount of people unemployed in my town. They were trying to paint the picture that at some point i too would find myself amongst unrealistic intentions for my property and circumstances that would no longer support my way of life. I was filled with rage. I tore the letter to shreds. I ripped and ripped at the paper until the pieces were so tiny you couldn’t make out the words printed on them any longer. I slammed the car door and sat. Anyone who wanted to take my land, for a price or otherwise, would have to pry it from my cold dead hands because that was the only reason i would ever leave.

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