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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.

2 comments on “Next Year Country

  1. I hear you loud and clear. It HAS all been said before, and by better writers than, in my case, me. However, not everyone has read the writing of those other writers, and my story told is just as worthy to my friends who are reading. Don’t get caught in the comparison, everything’s-been-done trap. You have your own voice, and none is like it. Keep saying what you have to say without judging it.

  2. Here’s my reply to a garlic grower in Alberta who had a major crop failure from winter kill in her garlic crop this year:
    Editor: Thank you Jackie. I’m sorry about your crop. It’s been a tough year for garlic across much of Canada. There is always much to be thankful for when you look at the news and see how thousands of others are affected by the whims of Lady Luck.
    I trust that you will keep up with garlic in future and not let it discourage you. A little story from my youth.
    I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. My father endured the decade of drought of the Great Depression, the grasshopper invasions, post-war harvest failures, even heavy snow and a hard freeze end-June that destroyed his grain crops, but he remained optimistic. He always said that the crop would be great “next year”. I like to tell people that I come from “next year country!”

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