Last week, I interviewed a farmer from Clarkson, visited his farm, and took several photos of him, his livestock, and his property.
I hadn’t been on a farm in years. But I’d never forgotten the sound of car tires crackling over gravel road. I’d never lost the backdrop of the woods against a cloudy sky. And how anyone could forget the smell of livestock and manure, I’ll never know.
When I was younger, my family owned farmland, and I spent the majority of my summers either playing ball in the backyard with my cousin and brother—I thought I was awesome at bat, that ball always looked like it flew for miles; swimming in our above ground swimming pool and doing front flips and wrestling moves off the edge into the water; or standing at the dusty bank of our little pond, staring at a floater for what felt like hours and waiting for it to bob and sink beneath the black surface.
Then I got a little older, and I didn’t feel quite as at home in that kind of environment. I’m not sure whether that was the result of some specific, unpleasant experience that I’ve since forgotten or if my interests just changed, but starting when I was about 12 or 13, I didn’t want to spend as much time outside anymore.
Around that time, we sold our pool and farmland. My cousin graduated high school and moved off to college. And I went through the torments and isolation of adolescence for the next seven years, biding my time until I could escape my hometown for somewhere new.
Then, my turn at college came, and I moved to Owensboro to attend Brescia. I loved my time there. I was in a big, new city where almost no one knew me, with a movie theater, a shopping mall, nice restaurants, and a beautiful park by the riverside within walking distance of my dorm.
And how did I spend my weekends? Every Friday, I made the hour-long drive right back to Leitchfield. Over four years, I might have stayed four weekends in Owensboro, and even then, I found myself calling to check in with my family every few hours.
When you grow up in a small town, that lifestyle takes root in your mind and body. You can walk away from it for a time, and I firmly believe everyone should. Burst that bubble, venture out, and experience the world.
But something in the way the sun peeks through a cloud and reflects trees on still, clear water; the way your mom’s home-cooked supper always tastes a thousand times better than any restaurant’s; how there’s a memory tied to every stone and stump in your backyard; or how the family you haven’t seen in weeks welcomes your return like you’d never left, keeps you coming back.
Embrace those feelings. They let you know you’re home.