Most mornings here on the farm begin the same. The sunlight sneaks through my northern-facing window as the dogs begins to stir, signaling the start of the day. As I look out toward the fields, I view a vast sea of crops, a rich contrast of textures and colors. The bearded wheat is turning gold now, just a few days away from harvest. Nearby, lush young corn waves its vibrant green leaves in the wind. Last week we planted soybeans on the dryland corners, and soon a lighter shade of green will join the palette. Up on the hill the old windmill churns as it always has with its groans and squeaks. Just a bunch of rusted metal, but to me it is alive and the gears spin a tune that soothes my soul. These familiar sights and sounds of the farm have become a comfort to me. But my world has changed and a chill of uncertainty looms heavy in the air. Things are very different now as I look to the south across the pasture, and what I witness is crushing.
Despite my best efforts, TransCanada's heavy machinery has rolled in, bringing the rumble of a foreign industry to invade my family's farm. The beeping and clanking of metal has begun, gut-wrenching noises that will continue throughout the day. Gaping holes have been dug, leaving mountains of red earth to make way for the monster 36-inch diameter blue-green pipe that will become the Keystone XL. I've watched this happen to others along the line, and sadly now it's my turn. With the ripping and tearing of the land my heart feels the same pain, and I search for the answer to the question many of us ask: “What can I do to make this all stop?”
Three years ago when I moved here to take over as the farm manager, I wasn't looking for a fight. I came to the family farm for the quiet life. I knew nothing about tar sands, eminent domain, or TransCanada. But then the Keystone XL pipeline literally landed in my backyard. Once I learned the facts about what this pipeline really meant for our land, I knew the risks far outweighed the rewards. In the event of a spill, no amount of money could compensate for the loss of the water and land that sustain us. But TransCanada told us we had no choice and condemned our land, so we decided to fight. Little did we know in the tiny community of Direct (with a population of about 70), the stand I decided to take for my family would eventually play out on a national stage.
Together look at what we've been able to do-
In this oil-rich state, Texans for the first time have had the courage to stand up against not only this pipeline, but also Big Oil and the deep pocketed groups that represent it. Brave folks like Eleanor Fairchild and David Daniel have stood their ground. Thanks to the support of thousands from around the world, we have been able to continue to wage a legal battle against TransCanada. We have exposed the process in Texas that allows a private corporation to steal your land so easily, while our elected officials turn a blind eye. Collectively, we have all held steadfast to our principles. In spite of TransCanada's empty promises of jobs and energy independence, we have created a different dialogue around clean air, water and land, the real building blocks to a sustainable economy.
Despite the bravery of those who stood up and said no, TransCanada has been masterful with its money, power, and influence to sway public opinion. Cleverly repackaging the southern leg of the Keystone XL as the Gulf Coast Section, they have skirted a presidential permit and diverted public awareness away from what's happening here in Texas. Contradictory to its self-imposed title as a “trusted neighbor,” TransCanada has attempted to quash opposition, manipulate the system, bully landowners, gag citizens, and mislead the public at every turn. It sickens me to hear our elected officials continue to defend this pipeline. To side with a corporation over the rights of private landowners is to abandon the very people they claim to represent.
It's hard not to feel abandoned when the attention has veered away from Texas and toward the decision on the northern leg of the Keystone XL. As I look out my window I'm reminded my fight is here, staring me down every day from just a few hundred yards away. I was told I am the last piece of the puzzle for the pipeline to connect and complete the southern portion of the project. Armed security guards hired by TransCanada sit at the edge of my property, watching both day and night, awaiting the slightest movement that would interfere with the agenda. I feel overcome with a sense of dread, yet if I sit here and do nothing, I can no longer use the word hope. Much like the Alamo, this is my last stand.
Yesterday I watched workers weld together massive pieces of pipe and begin laying them in the ground, and it took everything in me not to jump that fence and stand in their way in hopes that would halt the destruction. I knew it would not. Despite my pending appeal, it seems inevitable that my land will soon become part of the Keystone XL. Right now, I feel pretty defeated, beat down, frustrated, and helpless. I feel like I've tried everything. I'm fighting them both in the courtroom with the legal system and in the court of public opinion via the media. What else is there? With seemingly every choice taken from me, what other options do I still have left to fight?
Of this I am certain, I couldn't have made it this far without the support of many. This land IS my land and I have a duty to defend what I deem as sacred. I know I'm not alone in this thought. Many of you feel the same way I do. As disillusioned, angry, and frustrated as I am, I refuse to give up now at the eleventh hour. We are not done. The fight is still on, but the next steps must be new, bold and brave. Will you stand with me?