In the black-and-white Westerns that my dad used to watch when I was a kid, a cowboy hat-clad rancher might head out on horseback to survey his domain, a vast expanse of dusty terrain spanning thousands of acres. My father wasn’t a rancher by any means, but he did own a 10-acre spread in deep East Texas where he raised all manner of animals, including guinea fowl, hogs and cows.
He loved “going to the land,” as we called it back then, and he spent countless hours building pens, planting vegetable gardens, clearing sections of the property and walking mile after mile through the seemingly endless stretch of pines.
I did not share my father’s affinity for going to the land, and even though I spent plenty of time out there with him over the years, I would have much preferred to be back in Houston, reading a book, hanging out with friends or sitting in a cool, dark theater watching a movie—definitely not a Western. In fact after I left home, I spent two decades living in apartments, townhouses and condos—surrounded by land covered in concrete instead of pine needles and serenaded by the sounds of traffic instead of livestock.
About five years ago, however, I reached my limit on sharing walls with nosy neighbors and knowing that I was spending my hard-earned money to live atop ground that would never be mine. So I decided to purchase my own tiny patch of land.
At my little homestead in northwest Dallas, unlike the sprawling ranches in those old Westerns—or even my father’s modest parcel in the Piney Woods—I merely have to peek out the back door to take in the full 7,976 square feet of North Texas soil that belongs to me. After 20 years of having little more than a balcony or patio at my disposal, the 0.18 acre on which my 1952 cottage sits feels enormous to me. I’ve even dubbed the small section of yard behind the garage “the back forty.”
My dad died years ago, and his land was sold. While I don’t have his knack for animal husbandry or even one-tenth of the acreage he owned in Sam Houston Electric Cooperative’s service area, I do have a dog who loves to roll in the grass, sunbathe in the driveway and patrol the grounds for squirrels and opossums. I’ve also been thinking about starting a garden where I can grow my own tomatoes and cucumbers, some of my dad’s favorite crops.
I can’t be certain, but I’m betting that if he were still around, those things alone would earn me his signature grin and a nod.
Writer Rhonda Reinhart writes about interior design and architecture.