The value of things
I had an interesting experience the other day. I was mowing the lawn down in the front, next to the road. A car pulled in the driveway. A lady got out with some papers in her hand, looking a bit tentative. I cut the mower off and walked over to where she stood. She asked me if I was Richard Brady and if I owned a piece of property on such-andsuch road. I said I was guilty on both counts. She said she wanted to buy the property. I told her it was not for sale.
She smiled and asked me some questions about how I used the property and a few other things. She had been to the county clerk’s office and had a printout of the lots in the area, their acreage and other information. I told her that I might be able to help her, that I knew of some properties that might be purchased. She smiled again and politely said, sir, you don’t understand, I want
this piece of property. I smiled and politely said, ma’am, you don’t understand, this piece is not for sale.
To make a long story short, since it is fairly repetitive, she left me with a piece of paper with two phone numbers on it and a price that she was willing to pay for the property. I can’t really tell you what multiple of the real value of the property her offer represented, since I have never put a value on it, because I wasn’t interested in selling it, but suffice it to say, it was far more than I had ever dreamed anyone would pay for that piece of property.
She had some particular reasons for wanting the property, which don’t add a lot to this story, but she had no personal connection to it other than that it just happened to be exactly what she was looking for.
There is a lesson here, probably for me, maybe for you. When I told a few friends about this experience, the ones who didn’t think I was making this story up, thought I must have been crazy. Why wouldn’t you sell this small piece of land for that amount of money? The answer is simple: I wanted this piece of property when I bought it. It was special to me. Many years ago, my ancestors lived in the area, and watched the water tumble relentlessly down the little stream, and awoke each morning to the same view that I now enjoy.
But, they argued, you can buy other land, more acreage, better access, more tumbling waters. But, you see, it would- n’t be that piece of land, which is the piece I have wanted since I was old enough to know about land, and whenever I got up the courage to skip a day of school, this is where I went. This is where I wanted to be. And I now own that little piece of land, and, if I sell it, I won’t own it anymore. That sounds like a simpleton’s tautology, and, of course, it is. But, there is nothing as simply true as that.
My bride agreed with my decision, and to test our thinking on the issue, we talked to our children. I think the true meaning of “crestfallen” was in their voices as I recounted the events leading up to the offer.
You see, this is where, in their childhood, they scooped up salamanders in an old tea strainer. This is where they watched huge batches of frog eggs turn into tadpoles and then into frogs. This is where they learned what a real copperhead looks like, and how hard rocks really are. This is where they spent many nights in a sleeping bag, on a plywood floor, in front of a crude fireplace, in a primitive dwelling, while critters of every imaginable size scurried about, the big ones outside, the little ones, inside.
This is where they learned the meaning of hardscrabble. This is where, in the bloom of a showy orchis, they learned how precious and delicate nature is, and where they learned, in the aftermath of a flood, how unforgiving nature can be. And this will be the place where they will learn, as have I, the true value of things.
Showy orchis photo by Carly Lesser and Art Drauglis via Wikimedia Commons