A Memory of the Land

There was a beautiful story I was told of as a child about my paternal grandfather who had moved to the country. People would come to the country to visit and cheer him in his final illness that lasted too long.

It was an illness that kept him from working his skill at carpentry that built his own house and half of the house that I grew up in.

The story is that after visiting him, the visitors left more uplifted than they had been when they first arrived, for somehow my grandfather gave more to them than he received.

Perhaps, because even in illness he had found contentment in the country — in the house he had built.

He moved to the country in 1943 as World War II was raging away from the old Rondo neighborhood and the change that would soon engulf and nearly destroy it.

It would be called Urban Renewal but the joke in the Black community was to name it “Negro Removal.”

Like so many Black and minority neighborhoods across the Nation the progress of the Interstate Highway System would be built on the backs of Rondo in Saint Paul and the working class Black community in South Minneapolis.

The modest and nominal payments made for the taking of houses and businesses could never equal the decimation of the communities that had grown as segregated adjuncts to the wealthier white neighborhoods.

Indeed, the Selby-Dale and Rondo neighborhoods were nestled near enough to Summit Avenue and the privileged white upper class to make commuting to render service convenient without ever being entangled or combined. The arrangement suited those with power.

Yet, somehow my grandfather was ahead of this game.

He saw something coming on the horizon that caused him to move to the country. To build something anew before the old could be cut off from itself. Before even the suburbs had become a full reality in American life.

So he and one of his brothers bought 40 acres in the middle of farmland in a corner of the county half way to another one. Halfway to the beginning of what would in two generations be the edge of a new way of life and just in the middle of time when most of America were farmers.

There he would begin a saga that watched the world come to him with change.

-to be continued

-Albert Turner Goins

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