This land is our land
December 6, 2016 4:46 AM   Subscribe

Gillan Alexander's seed drill is on the fritz. So the winter wheat he’d hoped to get in the ground this early-October morning will have to wait until a parts dealer more than 80 miles away locates the necessary ball-bearing housings. Alexander, 59, who also grows sorghum and soybeans in rural Nicodemus, Kansas, puts the hassle in perspective: “My grandfather farmed wheat here using mules. I’m grateful to carry on that tradition, though it’s hard, even with modern equipment, and it does put pressure on me. I feel like I need to do an exceptional job, not only because that’s what farmers do, but because I’m one of the few black farmers left—in this town, the state, and the nation.”
posted by ChuraChura (10 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Beautiful, thanks for posting.
posted by mareli at 7:11 AM on December 6, 2016

A population of 650 supported a schoolhouse, post office, bank, two news- papers, two hotels, and three churches. Nicodemus wanted to expand that list with a railroad station. Instead, the Union Pacific chose an alternate route, five miles to the south, in the spring of 1888.

I wonder why that was? Sure, it happened all over the US, first with railroads and then highways, and maybe there was a good reason, but one still wonders.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:44 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

The people who owned the land 5 miles south probably had more sway with Union Pacific. That's the story of every railroad route across the West. Occasionally it was technical issues in how easy it was to lay line, but it was mostly financial and political.
posted by tavella at 9:17 AM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd guess that the people who owned the land 5 miles south were not black, and that had something significant to do with it.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:18 AM on December 6, 2016 [11 favorites]

I would be willing to bet folding money that ChuraChura is correct.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:29 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seems quite likely.
posted by tavella at 10:05 AM on December 6, 2016

Within months, a mass exodus occurred, as businesses, and then families, relocated to be near the new depot.

Probably just predatory capitalism. The RR did the same thing to the county seat here, in a county full of Scotch-Irish and Pennsylvania Dutch. They moved the line 3 miles south, right beside a 40 acre tract two lawyers and a real estate guy had recently bought. Those three had made a good start on the new Main Street when the county came up with the cash for a 3 mile spur to end 6 blocks from the court house. Too bad, so sad for the lawyers, but the RR is still making profits off that 3 miles of rails the county paid for.
posted by ridgerunner at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Farming is a hard, hard job. Farmers have to be jack of all trades and to be excellent at all they do in order to turn a profit. Farmer's wives and kids often have it pretty rough.

The thing that struck me about these older photos is that the kids (the girls especially) are smiling and look like they're thriving and content. Old pictures of other farming families show wives with tired, grim expressions and kids that look pretty ragged around the edges. All the females look strong and independent, and the men look happy with their lives.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:17 PM on December 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

BlueHorse All the females look strong and independent, and the men look happy with their lives.

... where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.
posted by nathan_teske at 2:11 PM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

“In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.”
posted by DreamerFi at 3:47 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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