I grew up on a small family farm in the Texas blackland prairie where mockingbirds sang and bluebonnets bloomed. The land was kind, the neighbors friendly, and my parents loving.
The main lesson my parents taught their children was to “take care of the land and your neighbors, and they’ll take care of you.” My mother loved to say:
There is a destiny that makes us brothers,
None goes his way alone;
What we send into the lives of others,
Comes back into our own.
When neighbors were sick or hurt, my parents and others tended their land, took them food, and cared for their children. They worked with scouts and 4-H, had the local baseball field in their yard, and tutored neighbor kids along with their own, helping them make bug and leaf collections for school. They worked the polls at election time and helped maintain our small, rural school. They took care of their community.
And they took care of their land. Although our farm was pretty flat, my father dutifully contour-plowed around every little bump. He and my mother hand-weeded thorny mesquite to keep it from spreading. They fought the dumping of raw sewage in the creek that ran through our land. They were proud of their native prairie pastures, their gentle, well-cared-for livestock, and our farm’s abundant wildlife. In the 1950s, a small flock of whooping cranes landed on our farm pond. Years later, I learned that this flock represented most of the remaining cranes at that time. We didn’t know what they were, and my dad considered shooting one to take in for identification. But he couldn’t do it. “They were too ‘purty’ to shoot,” he said.
My parents did not inherit their land but bought it with help from the U.S. Federal Land Bank. They paid their taxes willingly, seeing the benefits of public schools, roads, police and fire protection, and programs that helped the poor and elderly and helped people like them get their start.
Our family’s entertainment consisted of weenie roasts on the creek, watching sunsets, listening to bobwhites calling, making Texas mustang grape jelly, and picking dewberries for cobbler and homemade ice cream. We sang “America the Beautiful” because we knew that America, the land and the community, took care of us.
When I went off to college, my childhood love of the land and its people grew into the professions of ecology, teaching, and community service. The lessons I learned on that blackland prairie farm have served me throughout life.
I was taught to revere and delight in all of creation; that there is divinity in all things. I believe that creation is the Creator, continually recreating itself. We humans are a part of that, shaping our environment and communities. Humans have become one of the most powerful forces on earth. And as we wield that power, we must always remember, “What we send into the lives of others, comes back into our own.”
Born in 1953 on a small family farm, Vicki Watson grew up watching her parents’ loving care for land and community. After earning a PhD in ecology, Ms. Watson became a University of Montana environmental studies professor, focusing on watershed conservation and helping citizens work for the sustainable, ethical use of water.
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