Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly. What is a house but a sedes, a seat?—better if a country seat. I discovered many a site for a house not likely to be soon improved, which some might have thought too far from the village, but to my eyes the village was too far from it. Well, there I might live, I said; and there I did live
Henry David Thoreau – Walden
Alton died last week. At 85, the last of John Jerry and Lydia Machann’s family: six boys and two girls surviving to adulthood. He had remained on the family farm, making it yield enough (cattle, cotton, oil) to buy another plot and support him and his brother, AC, for their long lives. When a third brother, Robert, took early retirement from his factory job and returned to the farm, he, too, bought another plot, left to Alton. A child when his family moved in, Alton died in the house they built to anchor that land.
The Machans were stubbornly individualistic: half Machans; the other half Machanns. However, with all those sons, the name died out quickly. Half the sons were not the marrying kind, another was childless, another had a son and daughter but that son died far too young, and the third was my husband’s father – an only child, whose children are all girls. The three brothers led quiet if demanding lives. In his last bedridden years, farm life went by his window – he worried about whether a cow ambling by needed deworming, he’d consult the weather reports to see what was coming and his bird books as he watched his feeder.
Before we married, my husband returned to Austin one Sunday, having signed away all but oil royalty rights to the land left by his grandparents. All the siblings (or siblings’ representatives) had. There were many rational reasons – for one, broken up it would not even support a lonely farmer. Then, Alton wanted to farm. He told his oldest friend about going to Waco, working in the factory for a week. He returned ready to beg to stay on the farm; I can’t imagine his parents didn’t need another set of hands – farms generally do. This signing was after his parents’ deaths.