I only met her once, but believe me, in those brief moments, it felt as if I had known her a lifetime, our discussions literally spanned the time it takes, to enjoy a relaxing cup of freshly ground coffee.
I stood up and excused myself, saying that Granny Martha should spend some time with her namesake, her granddaughter, my wife, while I explored her deserted farm.
Everywhere I looked there were signs of neglect, rot, and decay. Someone had removed a wheel from a green-colored, weather-beaten John Deere tractor which had, stood there on the partially sunken steel jack the ground having been eroded by several spring spots of rain. The few surviving windblown stalks of corn had the texture of the paper. Whoever had attempted to farm this piece of land had obviously blown away with the first autumn winds.
When I got back from my excursion the two Martha’s were chatting away merrily. “So, Andre’ what do you think, is there hope for Thorn hill?” It was the name of Granny Martha’s farm. I told her how sad I felt, what a wonderful place like that had to go to ruin. “It need not go there”, she replied. “All it will take is a pair of willing hands. We have pulled some award-winning potatoes from this fertile black soil.” She replied.
“Where has everyone gone, I asked. I see a half-baked attempt at fixing the John Deere’s wheel out there, midfield, I said, as I pointed towards where the tractor was left.
For a few seconds, she sat speechless, staring out the window to where the faded green tractor stood, about 200 yards away.
“Three years… Actually, it will be four years come August when Pete went off to farm his own piece of land, in Dundee, 100 miles away.”
“So, how come a true-blue farmer just ups and leaves the plowing and repair job like that?” I asked. “Surely, someone could have planted and harvested a great crop; perhaps a share of the profits would have been enticing enough”. I said.
“Do you know about farming?” she asked. No, I’m one of those Farmer’s Weekly” farmers.” I replied. “Which ones are they?” she asked. “Oh, they are the guys who diligently buy a weekly publication, called Farmer’s Weekly, study the latest innovative farming techniques, watch the classified column for farms offered for sale, but don’t have as much as two nickels to rub together.
“But, what if someone made you an offer like the one you are suggesting, would you accept the offer?” she asked. “Probably not,” I answered. “And why would you not accept it? She asked. “Granny Martha, it’s one thing to dream about something, and it’s an entirely different matter to actually be doing it. I remarked.
“I’ll be 84 this coming May and I have spent my entire life on Thorn hill, I have witnessed the births and departures of three generations, either to eternity or to farm elsewhere and there is nothing under the sun, someone can teach me about potato and corn farming, If you are willing to learn, I will show you all there is to know and I am willing to fund the entire venture and to split the profit halfway, what about that? She asked, her bright sapphire blue eyes, looking directly into mine” Suddenly, life seemed extremely complicated…
We lived 400 miles away in the resort city of Durban and from the moment we arrived back home, Granny Martha would start phoning, always asking what my plans were, concerning her generous offer. Every time, I would point out reasons not to become involved. I knew people, and most of the ones I have rubbed shoulders with, were fickle like hell, not to mention greedy as well.
I could just see her family dive-bomb Thorn hill for their inheritance, the moment she passed away. There would be no chance for an outsider like me, walking out with anything beyond the shirt on my back.
So, it went on, for a year. Ultimately, she decided that It would be extremely irresponsible of me, to enter into a venture like that without the legal aspects put into place, first.
One night, I had a strange dream, where I was driving the green John Deere with a combined harvester in tow. In the dream, I got down from the tractor and picked up a healthy head of corn from the ground.
As I stared at it in gratitude, an ominous shadow passed overhead. I looked up, just in time, to see large hailstones come crashing down on to the field of ripe corn.
Within minutes, the storm had passed and where, only moments ago, there had been a bumper crop, every head of corn for hundreds of yards around, lay flattened on the ground, ruined!
I awoke, with a sense of dread and foreboding. The following morning my wife and I made a final decision, not to go farming with her Grandma…