Often when I have free time I drive the back roads to my destination. I make a point to bring my camera and give myself plenty of time for extra stops along the way. As I drive the hills and hollows that surround my home I always find some treasured old building and take its photo. This one really caught my eye last week and Christopher said it was “beautiful” as we drove to his dental appointment. It seems more decorative than most two room houses you usually see along the back roads. Making me wish that the somehow theses old houses would share all of their stories with me.
It is the stories that I love, not so much the genealogy of the houses ownership, that makes me write this blog. I want to hear about the births that happened in the houses, and if the children lived. I want to hear about the medicines that the woman of the house used when those children got sick. I want to know if those long gone children, got doses of cod liver oil in the spring as a tonic, just like mine. It was traditional every spring to line the children up for a heaping spoons full of the nasty oil. I wonder if everything moving got a dose as if they were cattle that needed spring worming.
I have always loved stories of feather tick beds in those houses, although my mother’s family could only afford to sleep on straw and corn shucks. I imagine a grandmother airing out the house on a warm spring day with the bedding hanging out the windows. I can see her out in the yard beating a rug on the clothes line and see her walking back from the root cellar with jars of canned food for supper on a cool spring night.
I imagine her grandchildren taking a wagon down the road about 6 miles to this dairy barn to collect the milk she would use to make butter, and cheese for her family. I can hear the cows and see the doves flutter away as the children run toward the barn. Somewhere in the distance is the dairy farm owners house. Where the same family has lived over 125 hundred years. Working the land and raising beautiful cattle and gallons of rich milk.
It is the stories of the people who carved out a life from the woods that call to me. I wait on them and try to catch a glimpse of them as they pass by an old frame windows and hide behind creaking wooden doors. I listen for their voices when I sit quietly on an old porch.I wait to meet the old folks when I smell wood smoke from a stone chimney and hope that they invite me in for a spell around the fire.
I dream of sitting on porch swing and talking for hours about the “old days” with a woman who shares a jar full of sweet tea with me. I feel that somehow we have known each other for generations even if she is nothing but a dream. I ask her about her life and family and then when the light changes she is gone and all that is left is her home place.
I know that her house wants me to stay a bit longer, so I linger. I look in the windows at the mess that is left from a long life of children and farm hands. I know that really my job is just to uncover the stories that live in these houses, cabins and barns. They want me to spread the stories of peaceful joy and long-suffering. They want me to remind the world that they existed and promise that their memories will not be forgotten. I hear on the whispering wind that these old houses are not willing to die without a fight. That like the men and woman of the mountains they will not go down easy into the earth.
At times I wonder how I am going to share the lives of so many. Then it happens, a house or barn or person appear. They show up in my life without any warning. I take photos and hear the most wonderful tales. They remind me that I am just supposed to slow down and listen to the stories these buildings want to share.