Silos stand as sentinels

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By Brad Bowman

Occasionally, one must relearn things.

I don’t mean material involving geometry, geography or units of measure. I mean the things in life which not just add to and enhance your life but sometimes provide a perspective that divides you from people in it.

See, I have this terrible, tortuous almost self-indulgent obsession with philosophy. I carried that interest from early childhood over into college. So much, that I decided it should be one of my minors. 

I’ve mentally wrestled with Kant and his ludicrous thought that morality comes from reason. I’ve tipped the scales on the other side of the spectrum with the Scottish philosopher David Hume who thought desire motivates humans not reason. I also don’t dismiss the teachings of Plato who thought all humans were born with an inherent intelligence which is what I recently needed to relearn—my own inherent common sense about things.

I recently attended the Berry Center’s Resettling of America conference earlier this month in Louisville. It’s no secret that I agree with many of the things the center looks to improve.

Being raised in a rural area in a family of farmers, I sought out this job for my own homecoming and resettling.

Henry County is the last rural outpost of my childhood. My stepfather’s uncle had a dairy operation near Finchville in Shelby County. My mother’s parents had a family farm and tobacco farm in Ballardsville in Oldham County. They both have disappeared and many like them continue to be dissolved by real estate developments or sold outside of the once numerous families in the farming community. Henry County truly is the last outpost of a once abundant rural lifestyle and culture for me.

When I have spoken to my younger brother and sister of our grandparent’s tobacco farm and how I would sit on the piles of tobacco at the warehouse where it was auctioned off they have no connection to what I am saying. It’s almost as if I am speaking of a primitive life far removed from their memory and affections.

The disappearance of family and community from our rural landscape seems almost like a way of life college students will one day study as they do other cultures in anthropology classes.

It’s almost as if Kuhn’s paradigm shift, a drastic change in our collective thoughts as a community toward practice and principle, has happened rapidly in my lifetime. Farming doesn’t involve neighborly relations nor a family but a large scale operation requiring less people and less personal connection to the land.

I love long drives through the back roads in Shelby, Oldham and Henry Counties where I can see much of the land where my own family and history come from. Some of the images disturb me. I see dilapidated barns and neglected farmland overgrown with for sale signs or they have been gobbled up by real estate developments that diminish the personal value the land once had to the county and its communities.

I see empty silos stand as sentinels over a land rich in tradition and full of history. We disregard them similar to the deteriorating stone towers of castles  I saw visiting the Scottish countryside.

 I return to my inherent lessons of life on the farm.

The inherent intelligence where you couldn’t cut corners with a crop and expect the same yield and quality as you could from one planned with sound reasoning and care.

Does that not inherently ring true with our own lives? We can’t expect the same yield and quality in our communities by this current paradigm.