When I went back last fall, the old homestead was gone. Back taxes hadn’t been paid since we left in 1986 and so the neighbors to our right, paid the taxes, bought the land, and tore down the buildings. All that’s there now is pasture land, large round hay bales, and memories….
My memory of the house is that it was set at the far right edge of the property. It was a simple Victorian style farmhouse, sitting on cinderblocks, and it had a wrap around porch and green tiled roof. The front door faced the road though that door was never used.
The house was longer than it was wide, with the bulk of it stretching out behind the front. Inside the house were 2 big bedrooms, a sitting room, a dining room, and a kitchen. There was also an add-on at the back and a staircase in the hallway that led to a partly refinished attic. One of the bedrooms was my parents, the other was shared by all 6 kids. A dirt driveway was just to the left of the house, with an old barn and other out buildings standing behind and to the left of that. Off to the left of those out buildings was pasture land and another old barn, that one dilapidated and caving in at the roof.
When I said that my Dad had lots of work to do to get it livable I wasn’t exaggerating. There was no running water to the house. I think it had been plumbed at one time, but the piping no longer worked. I remember Dad running pipes around, through, and under the house as necessary. The same was probably true of the electric wiring.
In addition to the plumbing and electrical issues, my dad also had to find some way to provide warmth to the house during the colder months. His solution was pot bellied stoves in the living room and kitchen, and space heaters in the bedrooms. The old pot bellied stoves smoked us out of the house on more than one occasion because none of us were sure of the proper way to light a fire in one. When we did get a fire going, it was glorious. The space heaters in the bedroom also provided warmth, though we seemed to have better luck snuggling together…at least until our youngest brother took to wetting the bed rather than going to the bathroom on cold nights.
Inside the kitchen there was something that looked like a closet protruding from the wall. In actuality it was a cellar entrance with stairs descending into it and shelves built into the walls. I only vaguely remember this because one of the first things my Dad did was remove it and board over the stairs to the cellar. In hindsight that was probably a good thing. Between my 5 siblings and myself, one of us would have gotten ourselves killed down there.
Even with the entryway removed from the kitchen there was still access to the cellar from outside the house. At least for a little while. Dad tried to fill it in with dirt, but didn’t do a great job. That first spring I remember one of the water pipes he installed bursting and filling the cellar with water. We thought it was funny. We’d even see the occasional duck or two floating on that cellar pond. Looking back it was a malaria trap I’m sure. Standing water and mosquito’s just waiting to breed.
Coming from fairly new homes, with carpets, linoleum, central heat and air, running water, and little amenities like electricity, this move was quite a change. We weren’t quite sure how to process everything. We thought of it as quite an adventure at first and I haven’t even told you about the add-on bathroom and our neighbors in the attic…