Legacy

I’m reading the book The Descendants right now. I have been moved by Matt’s (the main character) dilemma over his decision as majority share holder of a family property. He has to decide which bid to accept for the sale of said property. Made me think of my family, our legacy.

My family owns an 1800 acre wheat ranch in Eastern Oregon. It has been in our family for generations. In fact, the original Campbell Schoolhouse now sits behind my uncle’s home as a guest house.

My grandpa is the one sitting on this horse drawn combine.

I have always felt a connection to this land. I can feel the energy of all my forebears when I am there. I can feel their courage and travails as they endured and traversed the Oregon trail in their schooners. My ancestor, Dan Ogle, first settled in the Willamette Valley, but then transplanted to Eastern Oregon to grow wheat. I can feel the sweat and tears that fell on this soil over the years seep right back in to me through my feet. As I take in the vast fields and gently rolling hills of sun-golden wheat with my eyes, I smile as I drink in the passion for the land, family and life. As I hear the ever present breezes rustle the trees and brush against my skin, it is those who came before greeting me. When the wheat is green, I can smell the hope for a prosperous harvest.

We spent much time here when I was a child. We lived down in the Portland area, but would travel to the ranch often to visit Grandma and Grandpa Campbell. But I think it was more than this. I suspect being on the ranch spoke to my parents’ souls as it did to mine. In fact, there are a portion of both of my parents ashes spread at the ranch. I will request this of mine, as well. I have vivid memories of the summer they helped with harvest. Dad (the old money pediatrician) was downright joyful as he drove truck while Grandpa manned the combine and Uncle Ken dealt with the other truck. Mom and Grandma spent most of the day in the kitchen cooking the hearty meals needed to farm, including the all important mid-day “dinner.” I always remember finding it endearing when Grandma and Grandpa would call the mid-day meal dinner.

When I was 13 my Aunt Sheila and Uncle Ken had moved to the ranch and my grandparents had moved in to town. Aunt Sheila and Uncle Ken had added triplets to their family the previous summer, joining my cousin Jarod. I stayed in town with my Grandparents, but was out at the ranch every day as I was to be Aunt Sheila’s mother’s helper during harvest. I was so proud as I considered myself part of the harvest crew that year, even though “Calamity Jane” struck more than once at dinner and left one member of my family or another with a wet lap. Thankfully, it was laughed off and after the second or third incident, I finally stopped knocking over that darn drink pitcher.

It was also finally my turn to learn to drive. For those of you non-country folk, one of the thrills of country living for a child is there’s a chance someone might teach you drive before you’re 15. I will forever treasure the memories of driving from town out to the ranch with Grandpa Campbell, on that old country, gravel back road with me behind the wheel of his tiny, yellow pick up truck. I had my gentle bear all to myself. When you’re 1 of 10 grand kids, that doesn’t happen very often.

Some in our family fear as the property continues to be passed down from generation to generation, it will eventually be sold. I know all of us grand kids feel the grounding connection to this land. But the question is, will our children?

I have a plan for this. First, I have already taken my girls out to the ranch a couple of times and hope to ask Uncle Ken to do so many more. This is no easy task as it is kind of trains, planes and automobiles to get there from here. Second, the last time we were there, I asked my cousin Maggie to meet us and take the girls for a quick ride. Livie has the love of horses that runs through the blood of quite a few of us Campbells. I was scheming so she would associate the ranch with horses. Aren’t I clever? Third, the girls’ school invites parents to come at different grade levels to make presentations to the class. I think this farming legacy makes me pretty unique out here in this wealthy suburb of New York City. Guess what I choose to present? In fact, I’d love suggestions on how to make it more tactile and cool as this year I will be presenting to 4th graders. They may be a tougher crowd than Livie’s classmates were when she was in Kindergarten.

So, as I continue to read The Descendants I wonder what decision Matt will make. Meanwhile I do my best to pass on my legacy to my children so the Campbell Wheat Ranch of Helix, OR will never be sold.

The house is nestled in the wind break of trees there.