Clyde: Breaking ground

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 2, 2023

“When the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai”

— Exodus 19:1

By the time we came along, everything had grown into a savannah of grassland, still not full of milk and honey. John Lawson in 1701 described the timber as large “as any I ever met withal, especially chestnut oaks.” Clearing new land good enough to plant seed potatoes on Good Friday was no easy task. Denny still owns a stump-pulling contraption and still uses it. “And you get up about 4 o’clock in the morning and you broke the land. It was hard land and you used a disc harrow pulled by mules. It took several times to ever git your land to where you could tend it” (Hubert Woodall 1892, Johnston County). Plow deep while we sluggards are still asleep.

When the first colonists arrived, wrote John Adams, “the whole continent was one dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men. Now the forests are removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit, and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.” What would he say today? If they could see me now.

Hats off to the dirt farmers still cultivating their glebe. The word gleba in Latin means clod. Yes, as in dirt. Have you held one lately? What could you make of it? A new country where cacophonous cultured clones could conceivably cohabitate in cute colossal, classical, corbelled, columned, cabins in cul-de-sacs cluelessly clearcutting concourses and crossroads circumventing creativity; seemingly ceaselessly (well, it sounds like a “c”).

Do they still have the book “North Carolina the Goodliest Land” written by Ozell Freeman in the school library or is it banned? Where do we all come from? The area Rowan extended from where the Anson County line crossed the Granville Grant in a direct line to the Virginia border, bound on the east by Orange County with no limit to its west. It was our land O’ Goshen. In 1840, it was cut to its present size. It comes complete with groundhogs, fire ants, grackles, copperheads and crabgrass. We keep trying to make it look better. Room additions, pools, new paint and gutters, picking up other people’s litter. We call it home. And then, … and then, along comes the big “re-val,” that doesn’t seem to take into account that we have paid all of these years. Kinda like we just rent the land we are just passing through — pay as you go. Ghosts do the same but they don’t have a permanent address to get the tax bill. The appeal deadline has been extended til April 14. Would you sell it for tax value? Some 1,760 like-minded spirits have appealed so far, according to Wes at the Tax Collectors office.

What have we done with the land we founded? Out of 24 million acres developed, that is only about 2% of the land built on, exempting oceans and outer space. N.C. is No. 2 in the loss of farmland — that’s with 78,000 miles of paved roads and teenagers still have nowhere to go at night. We lose 10% of the dark sky yearly due to light pollution. Oh no, they can’t take that away from you. Little did the great overseer know what would become of the brave new world. With the mess we are in, it’s sort of like starting over again. Given 40 acres or $5 million, what would you do? Sell it to out-of-town developers, build tiny houses for the homeless, start a tree farm with solar panels, or simply plant a flower garden. Be careful, they have rules what you can and can’t do with your “own” land. Be careful what flag you fly.

“It still remains uncertain to what degree municipalities can restrict a person’s 1st Amendment rights when competing, legitimate interests in historic preservation conflict” (G. Corriher, Spring 2011). There is a story there. But first you have to clear the land. You picked a fine time to leave us, Lucille. So, whose land is it anyway?

Clyde is an artist in Salisbury.