This Land Is Mine
A Children's Story
“You can't plant there, boy,” Mr. Barker said after I had loosened a few scoops of earth with my pitchfork. He was angry, squinting his eyes the way my ma does before she gives me the strap.
“Why not, Mr. Barker?” I asked, feeling hurt and afraid. He never acted this way before. What's so bad about what I'm doing? Just digging up the ground to plant some flowers. Mr. Barker has always been kind to me. Always. This spring he let me help him dig in his big vegetable garden in the field behind his house. Together we planted corn seed which he says will grow twice as tall as me, taller even than he is. Just think. And he promised I could pick some when the time came.
“It's my property,” he said, as if God gave it to him.
I live here too, next door. All I'm doing is taking a narrow strip of dirt beside the driveway between our houses. The dirt is good, rich and dark brown. Only weeds and dandelions grow in it now. I like the spot I've chosen because my father will see the flowers when he drives his black Model T Ford up our weed-dotted gravel driveway. The flowers will cheer him up. I'll make colorful bouquets for my mother that will smell like her perfume. I can't wait for the flowers to begin sprouting. I can picture them now, their blossoms in more colors than my crayons. Just think.
“This is my garden, Mr. Barker,” I said.
“It's my land,” he shouted, angrily.
“You have your garden,” I said, trembling, ready to cry.
“You can't have one on my land,” he said grabbing the pitchfork from my hands.
Well, I was so mad I began crying and stomping my feet in the damp dirt, trying to get the pitchfork, which he raised high above his head.
Doesn't the world belong to everyone? Don't the birds fly anywhere they wish? Don't dogs and cats roam across everybody's yard? Why can't people? What does he mean by saying the land is his? I only want to grow beautiful plants that drink the rain and bend in the breeze and bring bees that make honey. I don't understand Mr. Barker.
“I'm going to tell my father on you,” I said as I started for the back door of our house, howling as if I had just fallen down and hurt myself.
Mr. Barker stabbed the pitchfork into the earth and smiled a little. I didn't think what I just said was funny.
“That ain't necessary, boy,” he said, motioning me to come toward him. “I believe we can settle this between ourselves.”
With tears still pouring from me, I said, “I thought we were friends.”
“We are, son, we are,” he responded, looking serious and placing his hands on my shoulders as I stood before him. “I'm trying to teach you a lesson, that's all. Y'understand?”
I nodded even though I didn't really.
“You can't dig anywhere you want. Land belongs to people. The world ain't free, son.”
“But I only want to make it more beautiful. Is that wrong?”
“It ain't wrong, boy.”
I could see that he was puzzled, maybe troubled a little.
“The world sure needs all the beauty it can get, but you can't beautify it in a place that ain't yours.”
Well, I began crying again, quietly this time, from a bigger sadness than before, from disappointment in the way the world was.
“Tell you what,” he said after thinking. “You can make your garden here, but you gotta remember it's my property.”
“Gee, Mr. Barker,” I said, laughing and hugging his legs, my tears gone. “But the flowers are mine, aren't they?”
“Sure, son, sure, they're all yours.”
He gathered my skinny body into his strong, sun-bronzed arms. “Friends again, are we?”
I giggled from his tickling, happy once more. The world may not have been mine, but I could use it, for a while anyway.
HUGH AARON, born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a graduate of The University of Chicago where his professors encouraged him to pursue a literary career. However, he made his living as CEO of his own manufacturing business while continuing to write. Since he sold his business in 1984 he has devoted full time to his writing resulting so far in two novels, a travel memoir, a short story collection, two collections of business essays, a book of movie reviews, a child’s book and a letter collection. The Wall Street Journal also published eighteen of his articles on business management and one on World War II. Many of his books can be found at Amazon.com.
He has written ten full length and ten one-act stageplays, and two screenplays. His collection of five novellas entitled QUINTET was recently published. Most of his plays deal with contemporary issues, several have had readings at local libraries, churches, and in private homes and some are scheduled for full stagings in 2007. The author resides in mid-coast Maine with his artist wife.
Visit his website: www.StonesPoint.com where readers can find reviews and reader comments on his books and a list of his plays.
Some years ago Hugh says he self-published a collection of his short stories including this one, to give to friends and family. Recently, a new friend and neighbor, mentioned that he loved short stories, so Hugh gave him a copy of the collection. "To my surprise, THIS LAND IS MINE affected him the most. He saw it as an expression of our basic human need to be free, and he agreed with its theme that we are really only caretakers of the land."
Hugh continues,"Indeed, about the time I wrote the story I had also written an essay entitled The Caretakers showing how others before us used the land and passed it on to the next generations for them to use in often unimagined ways. To a child freedom is a given, and only as he or she grows up are the boundaries understood. To many, as it was to the child in this story, our world’s limits comes as a rude but essential awakening. And we adults often forget that all of us are merely only renters of the space we occupy on this earth."