This Land Ain’t for Sale

Sunrise across Kidepo Nat'l Park Uganda
Sunrise across Kidepo Nat’l Park Uganda
  • Give me land, lots of land.
    Give me land,
    Lot’s of land,
    But don’t fence me in.



“This land’s their burying ground.
They fightin’ o’er their burying ground.”
-John Lee Hooker


Land sign near our house  on Lake Victoria.

One of the things that first astounded me about Africa was the land for sale signs.
I stand corrected. The signs actually read, “This land is not for sale.”

They’re everywhere. They outnumber actual “For Sale” signs five to one.

  • This plot is not for sale.
  • This house is not for sale by owner.
  • There’s a reason for this:
    Land title is a very complicated issue in Africa, especially Uganda.
    Many homes and tukuls (huts) are built on land with no clear title.
    If you squat on a piece of land, it may eventually become yours.
    Even more confusing, many plots or compounds have multiple titles.
    Three individuals may have a clear title deed to the same parcel.
    That’s when the trouble starts.
  • Someone puts a For Sale sign up on a piece of land, knowing there is an absentee owner.
    The new buyer purchases, seemingly in good faith, this spot for the family’s dream tukul only to learn it belongs to a woman in Kampala, a nearby church, and eight children who inherited it from their father.
    Each owner has a clear title.
    You’ve got a mess.
    Sadly, the latest buyer has probably lost their money, especially if any of the other owners have political clout.
    None of the owners will ever build on this plot.
    The only winner is the scoundrel who sold you the land. He’s probably the same rascal who sold to the others.
    Let the buyer beware.
    So to avoid these phantom sales, the owner posts signs that this land is not for sale, regardless of what any silver-tongued devil says.
    Africa has no copyright on land disputes.
    It seems to plague every culture, country and continent.
  • Nor is it a recent development.
    Over three thousand years ago, Uncle Abraham left his land to calm a simmering dispute with his nephew Lot.
    I’ve seen various Louisiana land fights.
    Many involve neighbors.
    Friends who become enemies over the placement of a fence.
    Sadly, the worst land squabbles are inter-familial.
    Siblings at each other’s throats over family land.
    Few end well.
  • Sadly, I’ve attended funerals where close family sat apart and refused to speak due to a hurt in the past related to succession and inheritance.
    I’ve always been fascinated with land.
    My dad was a land surveyor.
    Although I didn’t follow his profession, I inherited his love of the land and keen eye for geography.
    I love the 120 acres I share with my Iles kin.
    Two houses I love deeply—The Old House (circa 1892) and the Clayton and Mary Iles home (circa 1960) sit on this land.
    That land was homesteaded by my great great grandparents in the late 19th
    It’s special.
    But no more special than my family.
    Like Abraham, I hope I’d walk away before splitting kin.
  • The family land I share in Dry Creek contains about twelve acres that is truly mine.
    My dad’s grandmother gave forty acres of homestead to him.
    My parents split it among my two sisters and me.
    My sisters, Colleen and Claudia, live on their parcel.
    My acreage sits back near the edge of the swamp.
    I’ve planted it in longleaf pines.
    That’s how it was when John Wesley Wagnon homesteaded it.
  • I look forward to walking that land again in 2016.
    Checking my pines.
    Looking for deertracks.
    Picking a place for my fire ring and tent.
    As I walk the firelanes, I hope to remember that I don’t really own this land. It’s just on loan from God.I wish to be a good steward during my thin wisp of vapor.In fact, I don’t own this land.

    It owns me.

    I may put up a sign.
    This land is not for sale.

  • Not because I’m worried about anyone selling it out from under me.
    Just a reminder that it’s family land.
    Land passed on to me that I’ll pass on to my sons and their children.
    Sell it?
    There’s not enough money in the world.
    This land ain’t for sale.
  • My idea of a good time

    Is walking my property line

    And knowing the mud on my boots is mine.

    -Toy Caldwell   “Property Line”

  • My pastor, Charlie Bailey, left this hat on his last visit.  This gift has meant the world to me.
    My pastor, Charlie Bailey, left this hat on his last visit. This gift has meant the world to me.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my favorite Dry Creek story about land disputes.  It’s called,  “The Friendship Lane” and is an inspiring tale of two families who knew what really mattered.

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