The writer of the book of memoirs died four years ago, at the age of ninety. The people about whom he wrote are a long time gone.
Inside the cover of his memoir is a photograph of a group of children, a young woman is standing beside them. The woman was so unobtrusive in her lifetime that it was a surprise to find her appearing in a picture at the front of a book.
The young woman pictured is now long dead; the man she would marry some years after the photograph was taken is also long dead.
He drove his old tractor until the end. Each morning he left the house and drove at a pedestrian pace to the farm. His daughter lived in the farmhouse and gave him his midday meal, each evening he pulled himself up into the cab of the tractor and drove home again.
The young woman who had become his wife was a quiet and homely woman, their long low cottage was always warm and welcoming.
He never attended church, he had been a member of some evangelical group in the past, but had long since lost any faith he may have had. She never missed, arriving Sunday by Sunday with a prayer book she hardly needed, for the variety of prayers in our little church was so limited that she must have known them all.
When they were both gone, there was a remaining air of mystery, nothing ever articulated, just odd comments, pieces of the jigsaw not quite fitting.
One family member was not like the others, even to a fellow like myself who was barely in the place, there seemed a genetic mismatch. It was not something that you would wish to mention to anyone. Anyway the odd one out in the family lived a suburban life a distance away.
It was sometime later that the picture became clearer, a bachelor farmer from another parish had rented fields in the parish to a local family for some time. When he died his fields were left to someone with whom he had no connection, no connection at all.
He had left his land to the person who didn’t match the rest of the family, the person who had chosen suburbia over the deep rural community that had been and that had remained home to the others.
“Why would he make such a will?” I asked the tenant farmer who rented the fields.
On reflection, it was a naive question.
“Why do you think?” the farmer replied and winked and walked on. He might have added, “why do you think, you fool?”
Country people were sometimes good at not saying things. In these times of social media, it is hard to imagine the secret would have remained so.