I grew up in two worlds: my father’s parents’ world of brick homes, city streets, shopping, and playgrounds; and my mother’s parents’ world of dirt roads, livestock, growing our own food, and endless woods. That second world was undeniably harder than the first. The work was dirtier, and there was more of it. The homes had fewer luxuries: no cable, no AC, never more than one bathroom. Even death was different. In town, death was a polished event that took place elsewhere: hospitals, nursing homes, slaughter houses, funeral parlors. On the farm, animals were killed every week and most people died at home, and their bodies stayed there until they were buried.
Somehow, however, that second world still seemed much more alive, much more real and vital. Despite that vitality, I was aware that most people knew almost nothing about that second world. It was then, and is increasingly now, an undiscovered country where life and death exist side by side with a natural intensity missing from the artificial world of the city.
This book, dedicated to my grandfather (one who knew how to own land), is a record of my undiscovered country and the people who lived there.