Hunting Land Series – When The Call Comes
The family had just sat down for a big evening meal. It had become less common to have the whole family together since so many had moved away from the farm. Bill and Eva had bought the land when Bill came home from World War II in the 40s. It was all woods when Bill bought it. He changed that as soon as he could. With a few dollars he had from the work in town when he could get it, Bill cleared half the land and made some pastures. Bill was able to burn what he couldn’t sell of the timber. He had one mule and his neighbor another. Sometimes they worked together to pull the stumps and logs. Once they finally had the land cleared, they started working in terraces. Eva always had plenty of hot biscuits and either ham or homemade jelly and fresh butter. It was a lot of hard work, but it was a great life and neither of them would have it any other way.
First came Bill Jr., a big boy and Bill’s pride and joy. His second son Ray happened along a year later. Then the first daughter, Janie, and then the second daughter, May. Finally, Ralph, named for Bill’s father, rounded out the last of the children. The cabin Bill and Eva had built from the first trees he had cut was expanded as best they could to make room for the kids. Indoor plumbing came about the time a well was installed, so Eva didn’t have to carry buckets of water into the house anymore. Color TV, air conditioning—it was all an eventual part of life on the farm.
When the kids made their way through school, they took on different interests, none of which were farming. They had raised prize-winning heifers for FFA, so sure, they knew how to pull a calf or even churn butter and can tomatoes. But city living with high-paying jobs for a day’s work was too inviting to stay on the farm. Bill Jr. had joined up with Georgia Power and ran crews putting in new service all across Georgia. He and his family lived an hour away in a subdivision near Atlanta. Ray was a mathematician at heart. He had earned a full-ride scholarship playing football for Georgia Tech and now was a vice president in engineering for AT&T—he and his wife had a condo, one of the first in Buckhead. Janie was married out of high school and her husband joined the Marines. They lived in North Carolina. May and her husband had a small retail grocery store in the small town near the farm. Ralph was somewhat of a rounder. He traveled to Texas and got into the oil business, then on to Alaska trying his luck at gold mining. He just kept seeing a greener pasture on the other side of the fence.
But this day, they were all at home on the farm. Bill Sr.’s health was failing. Eva was using a walker to get around the kitchen, but she was determined to feed everyone more than they could handle. All of the kids and grandchildren were having a great time listening to stories about growing up on the farm. There were a few embarrassing moments, a few stretched stories and a lot of stories about hunting and guns. There was a bond to the farm that came from the past, and Bill Sr. hoped it was something the others would want to hold on to. But none of them had ever shown the least bit of interest in the land.
Then the phone rang. Of course, it was a landline, but Bill had moved up to a portable hand-held unit, so he didn’t have to have a cord wrapping around him. The man on the call asked for Bill and introduced himself as a real estate agent. Bill listened patiently to what he had to say. He asked a few questions and thanked the man for the call then hung up. Everyone was sitting at the table, so they had heard part of the conversation.
“What did he want?” asked Bill Jr..
“He says I can sell the farm now and make a lot of money,” Bill said.
That call comes to a lot of homes. I make a lot of those calls. I can honestly say I do so with mixed emotions. I respect what the older generation went through to provide the place they called home for so long. I understand the opportunity they worked for and prayed for that their children could prosper. And I know how much they hoped their work would be valued by someone to want to hold onto the family land.
I also know not everyone finds a tie to the land or what went into owning it. So when that call comes, it may be time to put a value on all that effort, time, sweat and blood. Know what a life estate is. Know what can be done to keep Bill and Eva safe and comfortable. Get with a knowledgeable realtor, and make a plan.
Ed Fickey is a real estate broker licensed in GA/AL/TN/SC.
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