By PETTUS READ
The other night while resting in my home and enjoying the football playoffs, someone in a four-wheel drive pickup truck used one of our hay fields as their place of recreation for the evening. They entered the farm by crossing down below the house so I couldn't hear them and proceeded to make images of donuts in the field.
I've heard about crop circles showing up in farmers' fields with people thinking space aliens had landed and created them, but the aliens that landed in my fields the other night were from right here in Tennessee and were only "spaced out" with disrespect for other people's property. Just because their truck says "off-road" on the side, doesn't mean they have the right to take it "off-road" in my hay field. Come spring and summer when we have to ride across those ruts taking care of the hay crop and the ride is so rough it almost jerks your teeth out, I would love to have that character close by to discuss his actions.
This event reminds me of a few years ago when I relayed a wish I had about the same type of incident that happened. It dealt with having the opportunity to return the favor to someone who used a farmer's field for their playground. It didn't really happen, but I'm sure in the minds of those who have had acres of crops, farm fields and fences destroyed by off-road vehicles, they wished to do it many times. I've often wondered how the individuals would feel if we brought our farm tractors to their backyards and proceeded to go around and around cutting deep tracks in their flowerbeds.
In the past, while trying to repair those deep truck ruts on our property, I've pictured myself standing in "Big Truck Jo's" backyard after cutting a few donuts in it with my tractor and watching him coming out the backdoor. As I would finish my soda pop and crush the can on Jo's concrete jockey lawn ornament and throw it on the ground like he does his cans at my place, I would say, "Good to see you up close Jo. The past few months I have only seen your back and license plate as you were leaving my farm. Great little spread you have here."
Of course Jo wouldn't be too much for small talk as I wasn't the other day after finding his tracks in my field, and he would probably say, "You can't ride a tractor here. This is a home and yard," as he would pick up my soda pop can.
"Oh," I would reply. "Then that means you think my farm is not my home and place of business, do you? All of those signs that say posted, no trespassing, no hunting and keep out are really just there for looks, then."
Maybe I would get Jo's attention and maybe the color of his face would now be turning the color of very deep white from the fire engine red it was from seeing me cutting donuts with my tractor. He may even just say, "You got me. If you will just leave, I will never set foot on your place again."
Then I would load the tractor back up on the trailer parked in his front yard, and while putting the tailgate up on my truck and getting in, I would say, "Jo, farmers pay taxes and try to make a living just like everyone else in this country. Their land is their land and not the public's as a lot of people think. Please keep that in mind the next time you try to have fun at our expense. It is off-roaders like you that give the community-minded and good off-road recreationists a bad name."
Of course, this is all a dream and there is no way I would ever drive a tractor in someone's yard, but it is what you feel like doing at times when those who seem to take the old song "This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land" totally to heart. Right now there is much talk about the second amendment and I really don't wish to get into that debate, but property rights, trespassing and going where you shouldn't very much needs to be taught to a lot of people in today's society.
Respect of what belongs to others is a principle that I was taught at a very early age. We lived in the country with hundreds of acres surrounding us, but we knew where the property lines were, and Daddy told us to never cross them without permission. That person in that truck the other night needed my daddy's instruction, along with a lot of folks. He could explain your rights real quick and the issue was never debatable.
- Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org