Next Year Country

“There was always the land, those acres a man could walk over at sunset… His own land. No matter how sandy, rocky, dark, or rich, owning land was the triumph of it all. He could pick up his soil and let it sift through  his fingers and say, “This is mine.” If you have not been close to the land, you will never know that emotion.”

– Barry Broadfoot, Next Year Country.

 

There’s a saying, a mentality, which underscores life here: “next year country.” Its meaning is both obvious and elusive, for the plain, simple statement, sums up its literal meaning: “this is next year country” means that next year is always going to be better. When the crop is only fair, or fails entirely, it’s time to turn to next year. But what does better mean? It is not the same as the grass is always greener. It’s pure, unbridled optimism in a land full of glass half-empty people.

Sometimes I get a little melancholy when I read writing that is so perfect, and I think, what’s the point of me writing at all? These others who came before have already written what I want to write. When I’m out and about and something pops into my mind and I get that exhilarating feeling, that thrill of rightness which manifests in gooseflesh and a muted giddiness felt deep in the guts – only to discover moments or months later that someone else has already articulated that exact notion, that thought has already crystallized and been given external form by somebody before me. So what are those thrills for, anyway? Is it enough to just feel them, or must I give voice to them as well? We are always taught to be innovative explorers, to always have something new to offer the world. If we want to write a book, it better be about something no one’s ever written before or there isn’t a chance in hell of it ever seeing the light of day.

Then the copycats may follow for we live in a world of imitation. So maybe I’m just a copycat after all, rehashing what the wise ones before me have already thought, said, and written. But then I remember how every story ever told has its roots somewhere in some ancient, nebulous source where all stories come from. That we have been telling and re-telling the same stories, with different characters and settings and simpler and more elaborate plots, throughout time. So maybe it’s worth something for me to keep writing anyway, even if what I have to say isn’t new. It’s just my way of saying it.

Next year country: to hope for something better, to keep on against the odds because, somehow, it’s worth doing.

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A Scream in the Night

There are often rumours of cougars in these parts…unconfirmed sightings, lambs taken with nothing left but patches of wool on top of bales, unearthly screams in the night. If it were Ireland or some other Gaelic country, those screams would be ascribed to otherwordly banshees, mythical creatures of dread and doom.

An old lady told me the other day that, on the plains, an old story goes that people would hear screaming in the night and think it was a woman being beaten by her husband. In the empty night, miles between everything, there could be no help for her.

But eventually, it was realised that the eerie sound was not an abused woman, but a cougar.

Or was it?

I have heard these sounds long after dark, attributed to some animal or another, maybe a bird of some kind. But I can’t say for sure what it is that screams in the night.