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A Good Man

by Merle Hanson 
Jan 19, 2015
Winona MN

Winona MN


Every night before I go to bed I see my Grandfather’s gun hanging over my bed. It has been there in all my eighty years of remembering and if things work out right it will be the last thing I remember. I hope to die in bed in the middle of the night.

Time has slowed me. I used to plant and harvest the corn, milk the cow and till the garden. I never married though many a man tried taming the spirit inside me. After a night of dancing with the community and friends more than a few pickup trucks tried following me home. They were met with Grandpa’s shotgun which is mighty accurate to a couple hundred paces. Word got out and folks gave me space.

We had been hearing down at the Redwood that out of staters were looking to buy our land. We didn’t take real kindly to outsiders. Mostly not trusting their motive. You got to know your neighbors from being in the church and schools. Life moved a bit slower and we liked how it effected our thinking.

We hunted the land and learned out in the woods and in the coffee shop and the kitchen table. We said our prayers even though we thought it poppycock, just to make sure. One of the old grandmas way back when would have had it no other way. She liked nuns and pointer sticks.

I wasn’t selling my land. I never wanted to live anywhere else. My family was buried in the back corner and I always thought I would be there when time called. Family meant a lot to my people and they put their heart and souls into the soil upon which I stand. We made the caskets from the planed boards of the lumber yard and visitation was held in the parlor of the family home..

The farm women came to cook and the men helped with chores until death was given its proper respect. Many folks saved the old horse and buggy to pay their respects. It was mostly talking about the dead and how they went about their ways. Nearly everybody showed, no matter their difference back when.

I liked fall days and the family plot at the North end of the yard. We shared picnics and stories as I sat on the quilts they had made. Grandpa’s shirt still smelled a bit like tobacco and that piece of my mothers dress smelled like the quiet times I used to have while resting in her arms. I always liked the quiet times.

It was back there in that plot that I said NO to the pipeline running through our land. I was last in a long line of Tully’s and was all that remained. Tully Park sounded mighty good and those oil mongrels soon learned this Irish American heart could not be bought. I could hear the gentle affectionate laugh of my Grandpa Reeves as I dug in my heels.

The visitors came from Houston and Witchita and the more they spoke the louder the voices of my relatives spoke against oil running through the heartland. It would indeed be over their dead bodies and they wanted nothing to do with it. Range and Bull would growl like hungry dogs as the land men tried twisting my arm to get the land I was from.

They were oil men who had long ago sold themselves to the dollar. That land was about me and all I stood for. This was America and in this country your pocketbook didn’t always get what you wanted or thought were entitled to.

We hear a lot about progress and how its going to solve our problems. Far too many have rolled over for a dollar and the very fabric of our country has suffered as if that dollar is all that mattered. I ain’t selling my soul and this farmland stands as a testament to the true character of America. The Koch Brothers can kiss my ass and take their Canadian oil through that which it came.


I like to sit and watch the sunset from the porch of my family home. The setting sun has always calmed my soul as I watch life go by. Few things, it seems, remain from the country I knew but all kids should experience that smell of a barn or the feel of a horse. It is a way of life that is fast disappearing in the ways of today.

Families have been scattered as they pursue that dream.

Faster, bigger, better as they chase that dollar. The old family home will be a gathering spot for the common interests. The land will be leased to my neighbors to grow the crops which feed this country. The pipeline is not going through my land and I can hear the old folks nodding their heads and filling themselves with the satisfaction of a job well done as they hear my decision.

Every night before I close my eyes I see that gun and I think of my Grandfather and how that gun put food on the table. It was not meant for killing humans and men weren’t so hot and bothered like they are today. The boys say the problem with guns is a people one. They are probably right and in today’s world there are just not enough good men around. Too many hotheads running around with their fingers close to a trigger.

There is a lot to see from the porch of an old house. I sometimes think the world went all crazy when air conditioning and TV took over our lives but that’s a different story. Hope to see you again before I go.

Merle Hanson celebrates being back home in Winona, Minnesota in his book of essays: Portraits. Chris Livingston is assisting Hanson with the publication of his first book and has created a quick product listing on the website,, so those who are interested can place an advance order for autographed copies.

The launch event for the book, Portraits, will be Saturday, January 31st at 7:00pm at The Book Shelf.



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