Louis E. Bourgeois – nonfiction

The 40 Acres

The farmer was away on weekends and Ritchie and I would sneak onto his land and hunt, or fish in his well-stocked pond.  The farm was on a 40 acre spread of land with rolling hills and sparse but beautiful cypress, pine, and sycamore trees.  Our village was largely a pine tree village and the 40 acres was the only field land there was in the whole area, except for the narrow clearing of the pipeline that ran through the pine trees and the swamps clear up to Canada.  Many of us bought pipeline land because it was dirt cheap and the reason it was dirt cheap was because the gas line under ground can explode at any time if there’s even the slightest leak and explode and wipe out a whole village in a matter of seconds, but that’s the chance many of our families took to live as far away from the city as possible. 

At the middle of the 40 acres was a barn looking house painted not red but yellow.  The person who lived on the 40 acres was not the person who owned it.  The farmer/caretaker was a rather young cancer ridden man who didn’t have any hair at all.  He wasn’t a real farmer but he did manage to maintain five acres or so of beans, squash and peppers of various kinds.  He also looked over a herd of goats that traveled over the 40 acres night and day keeping the grass down; each and every one of the two dozen or so goats had a bell tied around its neck and when the whole herd walked together the whole village knew about it. 

I often dreamt of the 40 acres.  In my youthful sleep, my dreams of the 40 acres were always laced with dawn mist and it was always springtime.  In my dreams, I called the 40 acres Canada, I guess because Canada was as far away of a place as I could imagine and the 40 acres always seemed detached and not really a part of the village at all. I still see myself in my dreams of the 40 acres chasing after green herons or wild geese. At other times, I’m walking with the goats and lying down with them at noontime as we all rest together; other times I’m filling a green wooden pail with white perch from fishing the pond at the very edge of the 40 acres. 

On rare occasions, it got really cold in the village and Ritchie and I would put on our flannels and slip into our rubber boots and sneak past our parents who at this time wouldn’t let us use shotguns for hunting, we were still in our pellet rifle stage, and the two of us would head out to the 40 acres and kill whatever we could.  The last image I have of the 40 acres that wasn’t a dream was of me and Ritchie shooting dozens of robins out of the grey sky; the robins are whistling like mad and attempting to feed in the fields, to feed on whatever grain was left to eat from the freeze, the both of us enthralled because the robins were migrating from a long way away, a place farther than Ritchie and I had ever been, a place called Canada, or beyond.