Going Back Home

I’ve traveled such a long, long way from home since I left my farm in Wise County Texas. Oil and gas pollution turned an idyllic country life into a nightmare; the industry drove me from my peaceful home. Since then, It’s hard for me to feel totally at home anywhere anymore, therefore I am embracing my metamorphosis into a sojourner spirit. Being rooted to a place is nice but it can also keep you stuck. But in October, I had to go back home to help tell my story.

How it started

Spring 2022, I received a call from Janet Klein with Storyville Films about participating in a documentary produced by Oren Jacoby. Yeah, sure, happy to do another documentary (I’ve lost track of them all) about methane from oil and gas and climate change. When we hung up I googled Storyville and learned–Mama Mia (as the Italian documentary crew would say)–Oren Jacoby and Storyville did the fascinating documentary that I love, Shadow Man, about Richard Hambleton! Hambleton created street graffiti art before Banksy. Before the call from Janet, I had watched Shadow Man twice and RBG, the Academy Award nominated and Emmy Award winning documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Since the call, I watched Shadow Man again and I have enjoyed many other Storyville documentaries.

That Oren Jacoby!

How It’s Going

We started filming in November 2022 in the Texas Permian Basin. This was a new level of documentary filming for me with a new level of attention to every detail. The documentary follows the stories of three activists: Roishetta Ozane, Rep. Justin J Peterson, and Me. In telling these stories, I was privileged to meet many other people along the way. Some have changed my life.

I’ll let you judge for yourselves when you see the film, but the precision and care the team has given to this story is unparalleled in my experience. I also appreciate how kind and considerate everyone has been toward me and others involved. They are always checking to make sure I’m not too tired, hungry or if I need anything.

Oren and his crew met us in New York City for the climate march and followed us around. That’s when we got to meet Roishetta and Justin and Oren’s fun, competent, fast walking New Yorker wife Betsy who directed RGB. The Storyville crew is always fantastic no matter where we film.

The Twist

When Oren asked if they could film me on my farm in Wise County, I knew it wouldn’t be a problem logistically. Lance, the new owner, has become my friend and we talk several times a year. But I wasn’t sure how I would feel about going back there. It felt like I broke in two when I left.

The Wise County area is sometimes called the top of the Hill Country with rolling hills and tree-lined roads. I remember driving north on FM 730 and feeling deeply privileged knowing that I was going home. Listening to news on the radio about all the Fort Worth traffic jams made me extra grateful.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the film, but I will tell you that Ruby, the red roan molly mule, still lives there. My beautiful black and white paint mare, Ms. Kitty, gave birth to Ruby when I still lived there. Ruby still loves a good scratching and being the center of attention.

We stopped to observe the first well drilled on my road long, long ago. I have a story about that well but I won’t tell it here in case it survives the film edits. I couldn’t remember the year it was drilled and I didn’t know much about drilling back then or how to find out who was doing what. The new sign says it’s owned by EagleRidge but I knew they weren’t around back then. Nowadays I know how to find out who done it. So I looked it up on the Railroad Commission site and found the permit that was issued on June 3, 2003 and the well was completed on July 30, 2003. It was drilled over twenty years ago by Aruba Petroleum which explains so much. I have some history with Aruba. Let me be clear that there are no good operators, they are all bad, but some are especially, extra special bad.

Looking through the OGI camera revealed significant emissions in HSM mode, also not surprising. It’s been sitting there polluting the air for over 20 years.

After that, we drove through the “tree cathedral,” a road where the trees create what looks like an arched cathedral-like ceiling where sunlight shines through. “Tree cathedral” roads are abundant where I used to live but this one has a particularly ethereal vibe. It took me a little effort to get the film crew interested. “Just trust me,” I said. Seeing is believing. They asked me to drive up and down it several times which was fine with me. From there we went about 3 miles to the Greenwood Grocery in Greenwood, TX.

Greenwood Grocery in Greenwood, TX

Greenwood Grocery in Greenwood, TX

Revisiting my farm in Wise County reminded me that the fight against oil and gas is deeply personal for many of us. I miss my farm, my horses, Ruby the mule and the tree cathedral. Oil and gas pollution took these things away from me. Everyone has their “farm”–people and places they love which are threatened by the climate crisis. We will continue fighting for climate justice so that no one else is forced to flee their farms.

It Keeps Going

From Greenwood we went back to west Texas where we visited a Wind Farm with my former Earthworks colleague and dear friend, Molly Dunton.

P.S: Guess what people!? Wind Turbines emit no air pollution. But that’s another story.

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