There are times when I put my foot in my mouth or in my case we will be a little more real about that, I stick my entire leg all the way up to my hip in my mouth, by using words, terms, or euphemisms incorrectly. Sometimes it works to my benefit and I have people rolling on the floor laughing, and other times I want to crawl under a rock. For instance, “Quarter Horse”—as I was from the city and had no knowledge of horses besides they were big, smelly, and could stomp you to a pulp, the first time someone mentioned a Quarter Horse, I asked if it was one of those little horses that was the size of a dog. Needless to say, my horse-knowledgeable co-workers almost needed paramedics from the hysterics I had just caused them.
Luckily for me, I kind of knew what “back 40” meant, so I have not misused the term too badly.
Meaning: Shortened form of “back 40 acres”: A land owner or farmer who has developed part of their property may refer to their undeveloped land as the “back 40,” or the back side of their farm.
History: During the Homestead Acts in the 1860s, farmers were granted a quarter section. A section was 640 acres, a quarter section was 160 acres, and the quarter section was itself subdivided into four quarter-quarter sections of 40 acres each, with two front 40 and two back 40.
I wanted my own back 40, so when the opportunity was gifted to me, I was ecstatic with the prospect of 20 acres and a huge house to raise a family. (“Look before you leap” is another saying I should have paid more attention to!) It has been 16 years and 315 days since I move to Klickitat County. I have to admit moving from the Emerald City with lush green foliage, huge evergreens, snow-peaked mountains, and year-round moisture to dry, windy, too-hot-or-too-cold with the only thing within a half mile being cows was like stepping into a live episode of The Twilight Zone. I absolutely hated it with every fiber of my being, period, end of discussion. It was either Africa hot or Arctic cold, with no break from the constant, hurricane-force winds in Centerville. What was I thinking when I moved here? When they say “love is blind,” it is not a joke! I was young, in love and had blinders on. I was only looking into the beautiful blue eyes of the person I was in love with and not what I was stepping into. The dream of 20 acres with a large house quickly became a prison sentence and a nightmare.
Fast forward a few years—now I am happily remarried; we have five acres outside of Goldendale with tall beautiful trees, a lush green garden, breathtaking view of Mt. Hood, and neighbors that don’t moo at me, and if they did, I would probably moo back because they have a great sense of humor! I am free to move around my property and not live in the fear of being blown away in the wind with dirt in my eyes, burning to a crisp and feeling like Rango when he fell out of the back of the car in the desert or freezing to death like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I am thriving, and my soul is full of gratitude and happiness.
There are families here in Klickitat County that have been established for many, many generations, some for over 100 years, everyone is related to someone and “Community Days” is actually more like a huge family reunion, unless you are a transplant like me. To be part of a community that has some of the most talented, gifted, and creative people I have ever had the opportunity to work and play with fills me with pride. Even though I miss the evergreens, they have been replaced with fields of gold. I may not have a back 40 (it is a lot smaller), but I have a great community that I call home. The people here are my family, and I love this place with all my heart!