Terry Greenwood was one of the most compelling people you could ever listen to. There was just something about the way he spoke, there was a decency and a positivity that shone through every word no matter how distressing or disturbing the subject matter was. It was as if when he spoke about the things that troubled him, he was still conferring a lightness to you, a gratitude to the person listening.
Some people just manage to bestow a great humanity and great respect onto you while they are talking. Terry was one of those people. When you listened to Terry you felt like a more generous person somehow, he just made you want to listen, and made you want to help.
Honesty, decency, generosity, care, love. These are the words that spring to mind when you listen to Terry. And his wife Kathy, will crack you up and then will feed you and feed you until you can barely get up off the chair. And those damn amazing red white and blue suspenders! You know you are the genuine article if you can get away with those.
I’ve never released this interview I did with Terry Greenwood in 2009 or 2010 but I am sure you will hear the tone that I am talking about in his voice. And i hope, it gives you a sense of the man and how much he loved his farm and his life.
He had been speaking openly and publicly about how 10 of the 18 calves that his cows gave birth to died just after birth or were stillborn and how he was very worried that it had something to do with the fact that fracking fluids and other substances had leaked into the pond where his cattle drank. I had head his story in the press and heard him speak about it in person, and I had heard of many stories of animals in heavily drilled areas from Arkansas to Colorado- of cows and goats who were failing to breed or who were having stillborn calves and kids. Terry was deeply troubled at the loss of so many of his calves, but more than that he was troubled by the fact that he felt his well water and springs had been contaminated by drilling, spills, leaks and fracking.
The interview speaks for itself. I am uploading it as a tribute to Terry and as a testament to everything he stood for. One of my favorite moments in any interview I’ve ever conducted is when Terry says “Money, money money! Our lifestyle wasn’t about that. We worked hard for what we got, we didn’t need it handed to us.” It’s a declaration of values that we can all only aspire to. Terry was saying what so many of us know and what we wish was more prevalent, that there are some things worth more than money, and one of them is decency.
When I heard, a few months ago that Terry had been diagnosed with brain cancer, I went to see him. In late March, he was having some trouble speaking, he was a bit weak, but his eyes were still telling you everything. He was still fighting, he was still positive, he was still going to find a way to make you smile. And as usual Kathy fed us amazing food until we could barely get up and packed the car with Western PA special buffalo chicken and pretzels n’at.
In the last days, recently, when Terry was in the hospital, we were all asking what we could do to help. Terry simply said, “Tell my story.”
So what does that mean? Does it mean tell the story of how gas companies barged onto his land? Does it mean speak about the water contamination they suffered, the insult added to injury when PA DEP ignored his complaints, the death of the cattle, his own death to cancer? Of course, that is part of the story.
But the bigger part of the story, it seems to me is of the man himself and of his family. To refuse greed. To speak truth. To act with such impassioned kindness, to try somehow to have some of that generous twinkle in the eye, to try to smile when you are talking and to make sure that you are appealing to that inside of us that is most sincere and honest. That’s telling Terry’s story.
This was a man who was truly brave, truly courageous in walking out into the public eye to tell his own story. And this was a man who did it without anger, although his anger would have been justified, who did it without self pity or depression, although no one would have blamed him for either. This was a man who could never prove all of what was done to him, but could only prove himself to be a good man, and he proved it with each sentence and in every gesture and smile. For us to tell it now is to try to be as brave, kind, straightforward and loving.
So when we tell Terry’s story, try to find some of that mysterious positive charge, that brightness, that giving spirit that we will all miss so much.
We owe you Terry. We’ll miss you brother.
God Speed and I damn sure hope there’s Harleys out there where you are.