The wall between us.

Three generations of O’Donnells and Hennesseys have farmed here; neighbours and friends in years of bounty and of drought. This place here is our summer picnic spot, built from stones cleared from both properties. There’s no dividing wall.


Copyright – Rachel Bjerke

It’s ten years now since Grace and I decided to go organic. They laughed – called us dreamers; but we worked hard and won certification. We believed in this.

It only took one bad storm to lose it all – one foul wind that blew Hennessey’s damned GM seeds into my crop.

I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, just to burn his poisonous acres to ashes, to teach him.


This story is for Friday Fictioneers, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ weekly flash fiction challenge. This week’s picture prompt made me think of stone walls, and Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall”.

Frost’s farming neighbours might have had their differences, but it’s certain that their pine trees and apple orchards could co-exist perfectly well without the need for a wall between them. In today’s world of genetically modified crops, what wall can protect the paddocks of those who wish to farm using more natural methods? “Good fences make good neighbours”, claims one old farmer, while his neighbour laughs at his out-of-date ideas. I wonder what they’d make of today’s dilemma.

My story is fiction, of course, but here’s an article about a recent dispute between neighbouring farmers in Western Australia, screened on ABC television.

37 thoughts on “The wall between us.

  1. I watched bits of this on the ABC the other night – its a sad tale for the neighbours, but a concerning one from a legal rights perspective. I’m not anti-GMO, but I do feel that rights to grow organic need to be respected.

    Nice take on the tale.


    • The documentary grabbed my attention, too, obviously. It’s a difficult isssue – how can organic farming continue when contamination seems unavoidable? Thanks for your encouraging comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Margaret,

    You’ve touched on a subject near and dear to my heart. Personally I think Hennessy and his henchmen should be burned out, lock stock and barrel. GMO is an anathema that’s causing us to dig our graves with our teeth. Take it from one who has all kinds of food sensitivities. I blame a lot of it on what they do to our food.

    Great take on the prompt.




    • There are so many unknowns in this whole debate. I feel for you with food sensitivities – it seems so wrong that our food can make us sick. Thanks for your feedback, Rochelle. I’m glad you liked my story.


  3. Well, as a scientist, I wouldn’t go on to say that GMO’s are harmful (given the fact that genetic modifications aren’t done with malicious intent)! Anyways, I enjoyed your take on the prompt!


    • I’m delighted to have a scientist reading and commenting on my story. I’m not anything like a scientist – I’m an English teacher. I am troubled by the uncertainty that seems to surround this issue, but certainly not knowledgeable enough to really understand its implications. Meanwhile, conflict is always good for a story. Thanks for your input.


    • It was a big falling out. The issue is huge, and your comment about Frankenstein seeds perhaps encapsulates people’s fears about a perceived threat to such a basic need as food. The other side to the debate, of course, is the need to improve our ability to feed the world’s population. I admire those scientists who are working to solve these problems. Thanks for commenting.


    • The friendship between the two families is definitely ended. I do wonder where we’ll end up with genetically modified food – it seems like an unstoppable force, and I guess there’s potential for much good to come from it, but it’s scary, and I wish I had more faith in human nature and big business to put human welfare before profit. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  4. I’m going to stay out of the GM debate and say I loved the Robert Frost connection. And the fact the gentle organic farmer was the one who went over the top – indeed conflict makes fools of us all and very good stories.


    • Thank you for your comment. I didn’t intend to spark a debate, actually. The picture reminded me of the poem first, and then I watched the documentary and the two kind of merged. It was the conflict – as you say, the stuff of fiction – that I tried to show.


  5. That’s very sad, not only the contamination of the crops but the breakdown of friendship between the families. Plus the implications of the final sentence, of course.
    I like your take on the prompt.


  6. It is an issue that wreaks havoc on so many hard working farmers these days!

    I really appreciate the way you built up the friendship, only to see it all burned to the ground… with one “foul wind” (a wonderfully written term)! Nice job, Margaret.


    • Thank you for your encouragement. I felt the first part of this was a touch too explanatory, so I wanted to boost up the emotion and imagery at the end. I’m happy you liked it.


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