This is the first paragraph of an essay written by Fred Tutman, environmentalist and Patuxent Riverkeeper. It was published in the Winter 2021 edition of A.T. Journeys Magazine, a publication of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
AS THE PANDEMIC TOOK HOLD OF THE WORLD, group hikes and travel to hiking destinations became less safe and so the call of the trails increasingly uncertain. But the urge to get outside transformed into a constant craving. Eventually, as we all donned masks and dug in for the long haul, I headed to my Great Grandad’s farm — the best place available for me to isolate. My family’s status where I live is rare in Black communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics tell us that less than one percent of the rural land in America is owned by people of color. My family is among that lowly statistic, having the rare achievement of inhabiting a Centennial farm — one that has been in continual existence in the same family for at least 100 years. We are now “Indigenous” here.
But local legends tell us that we acquired our permanent home because of a hex placed by an innocent man who had been hung from a tree like strange fruit on this very land. at same tree still stands in my front yard today. The story goes that in the early 1900s, a Black man could still be hung and lynched from a tree, and White people would chip in appreciative donations for a particularly “good” hanging. The legend says that the last Black man hung from that tree put a hex on his executioners who then encountered a series of bad breaks — including the loss of the farm. Eventually, my Great Grandfather acquired title to that once failing and defunct farm in Prince George’s County, Maryland — not far from the Appalachian Trail — a favorite and frequent hiking spot of mine.
Read the rest of the essay here.