Longform

This Land Is My Land

Page 8 of 8

"I was only kidding," he says. Behind him, the two hired hands try to conceal the mischievous smirks on their faces.

Berry is being razzed.

The man explains that he's in the business of making horseshoes. He wants to know if Berry's horse, the one quietly grazing in her front yard, needs a set. Berry tells him she doesn't know whose horse that is and drives off again, rolling up the window. Berry begins to relax as she pulls up to her house. She realizes her mistrust of strangers is sometimes excessive, but she says she can't help it.

The battle isn't over.

"I was leery of him," she confesses. "Sometimes they're good people, but I can't trust 'em."

Off to the side of the house, the five slave cabins glimmer like ice cubes left in the afternoon sun. She is still planning to add a couple of more cabins, including one with a chapel in it, but from the looks of things she'll be lucky if these don't melt away by then. Their thin coats of white paint are slipping away, while the nails that bind their warped walls continue to loosen their grip.

When asked to talk about her great-grandparents' lives, Berry grows silent. After a moment, she sighs.

"I never asked Uncle Dee," she says.

She has tried to gather some basic details about them, without success. She doesn't know where they were forced to work as slaves or what their lives were like then. To this day, she doesn't even know where they're buried.

About the only things Berry has found are the rusted scythe and scale James Morney used to cut and weigh cotton. That's about all he left behind. That and the land.

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley