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Standing your ground has a history that is probably as long as the idea of personal or private property has been around.  Even Neanderthals had territories.  Then we come to the Middle Ages, when, in most cases, "your" ground actually belonged to someone else, you just worked it for them.  But, the landowner could and did call you up in defense of that ground, to take someone else' ground, or even for no real reason at all.  You literally, belonged to that ground, it didn't belong to you.  Unless you were a freeholder, then what you did with your ground was your choice.  Mobile or "floating" ground came into being with the idea of a persons', usually a big wigs', simple presence in a place conferring temporary ownership of said ground.  Dueling was a prime example of this as the phrase is used in our current environment.  You literally had to stay in your alley and it only went so far.  Advent pistols into the duel and you paced off your ground.  So you see, without private property's involvement, you didn't have any ground to stand on.  The the ordinary private citizen began to be able to purchase and work ground for their own benefit and they might have to protect it from being taken.  Segue to the American Expansion/Exploitation Eras and all hell starts breaking loose.  With me so far?  I felt that the background was necessary as it's about to get really personal for me from here on out. If you flame, you tip! Please keep reading.

In 1938, in the middle of Iowa, a family had a farm.  They'd cleared the land and had been settled there for over a hundred years.  We won't go into who they "stole the land from", let's just say some of my ancestors met the Mayflower and other ancestors "passed".  So their stake of 5 generations was legitimized by blood, sweat, toil, tears, life, birth and, even though the family was already in place, the Homesteading Act of 1862.

In 1938, there were 3 generations living on that farm.  They'd consolidated due to the Depression and the fact that the patriarch was in his 70's.  The crops hadn't been good for the previous 4 years and '38 was looking to be a dud too.  In fact, I had an uncle who was named Dudley "Dud" for the crop the year he was born.  Four years of bad crops had made it nearly impossible to feed the families on the land, let alone turn a profit and a profit was important.  They needed a cash profit to pay the taxes for the market town that had sprung up nearby, to pay for the school teacher that taught the 18 kids from their place and God knows how many other kids from the other farms, and taxes kept up the road out to them.  They didn't mind paying the taxes for the things they needed to make the whole area better, but they didn't have it to pay.  Cash was hard to come by and saved scrupulously for those things that couldn't be self made, traded or bartered for, like taxes.

They were 3 years in arrears and the county assessor had been out and left paperwork.  There was a deadline but if you don't have it, you don't have it.  My great grandfather had my father, age 8, read the letter to him.  "Assessed tax value on Norris farm, Wick, Iowa.  3 years, no penalties, $350.00.  To be delivered by April 1, 1938 on pain of immediate foreclosure and auction of the described land, buildings and implements by the Warren County Sheriff."  In plain English, this means, pay up by April 1st or the Sheriff will come out and serve you with an immediate eviction notice, escort you off your land and you won't own it anymore.  My great grandfather replied, "This is MY land, it was my fathers' fathers' land. You will only get me to leave my land feet first!"

The morning of April 1st came and so did the Sheriff with his writ of eviction.  Nothing had been done to get ready to leave.  No one was planning on leaving, or at least they didn't act like it.  So, here's the Sheriff, saying "Sorry Missus, where's William?"  She didn't know, but she thought she'd seen him head for the horse barn, so she sent my father to fetch him.  Dutifully he went and came back saying, "he's not leaving, he's gone."  Questioned further, my father finally said, "He's hanging from the beam and I think he's dead."  There was confusion, commotion and they finally cut him down.  He laid wake in the house for 2 days and then they put him in the wagon and took him down the road to the cemetery.  Three days later, the Sheriff was back and brought some folks to help them pack up.  They moved into Indianola, a larger town closer to Des Moines and eventually brought great grandpa to the cemetery there.  Wick, Iowa is no longer there, it dried up and blew away with the farmers who were put off their land.  Indianola, Iowa is still there and Norris' still live there.  Some of the children had farms outside town but they're all gone now. There's one last farm, 10 acres that's now just inside city limits.  It belonged to the oldest boy, Earl, who bought it when he got back from WWII.  The city says his girl can't have horses on it anymore or any livestock for that matter.  The city is waiting for my aunt to die so it can be "developed". I saw my cousin at a family funeral recently and told her to fight it.  I'm hoping she'll read this and realize what it really means to "stand your ground."

12:20 PM PT: I seem to have left out something that may be vital to the story.  My great grandfather was 79 years old when he decided he wasn't going to leave the farm, ever.

Originally posted to Arianna Editrix on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 02:12 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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