Sunday, February 15, 2009

One Hundred Years Or Less

Just think, 100 years ago or less, depending on where you lived in the USA, most people built their own homes, and most were under 700 square feet... and if you were lucky, you might add on in time. An 18' X 20' is an pretty sprawling abode. Maybe they made the peaks high, and used the upstairs for sleeping?
It's amazing to see our hunger and greed for more and more grow in less than 100 years. Not to say theirs anything wrong with having elbow room, there's not. But the homes that I considered *mansions* in my youth, are just roomy homes by todays standards.
I guess my concern is the feeling that we need to aquire more, bigger, better, and follow the latest trends, verses preserving what we have and appreciating the feeling of contentment.
I have always loved driving throught the mountains, (Ozarks, Appalacia, both north and south), and collecting little things I find from old cabins, and homesteads, and barns... Sometimes it's a cool rock, or the one remaining cast iron leg from a stove, found buried under the dust and dirt near a foundation. Somethimes it's a near-rotted childs dress, that I hand wash and iron out. These represent a simpler time. And, as I look around my home... these little souveniers are all over the place.

I have a tiny glass bottle that I found in the remains of a barn that burned after being struck by lightning. It contains charred dust that used to be the barn. I had been going up to that old barn for years. Abandoned and behind an old homesteaders cabin, I got permission to poke around from the family. Noone had lived there since the 1970's and I would guess whoever was there had fallen on hard times and just needed a port in the storm. I have taken little amber medicine bottles, a rusted old hay hook..a piece of an old saw... just forgotten junk. But I take it home, clean it up and put it around the house so it gets a second life. Now before you think I'm stealing, most of this wouldn't qualify for trash... none has any cash value. Usually, it's just a piece of history rotting away.
While all this makes for a conversation piece and a memory of my explorations, it also reminds me that life is short, and you can't take any of it with you when you go.
Like I said; I had been going to the old homestead on the mountian for years when I was in the area...just to see if it's still standing. Take one more gander.... The last time I was there, the house, which was once just a one room log cabin and still raw log on the inside, was still standing strong. There was a well out to the side of the house and an enamel pan, nailed to the outside porch area as well as a 1930's soapdish. This must have been where they bathed in good weather. On the inside there was a cupboard. I had never opened it before, but I got nosey and did so. I open the hand-hewned wooden latch and peered inside. Mason jars! Maybe 20 or more? STILL full of green beans. They had to be 40 years old or more. (No, I didn't take any..)
So I slid on through the kitched and looked out the back window. Where was the barn? For a moment, I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. I know this place inside and out.
Stepping outside, the sun is shining on a heap of charred wood. The barn, that I have pictures of from every visit... of my dog sitting in,.. and pictures of the old tools and tobacco jars left behind is simply gone.
I kick around the blackened wood looking for a sign of anything that I remember. There is nothing. As I turn to leave, the sun bounces off a shiney piece of something buried in the blackness. I kick at it with my boot, and a little bottle, less than 2" high emerges. I pick it up, and blow the dust off. That's all that survived? Well, I scooped up some of the irrodescent blue-black coal dust and put it inside to carry home. It's really a very pretty object and people ask me about it when they see it in my guest bathroom.

What's that little bottle full of? Memories, I say. And thus the story begins, of life on a mountain, of people I never knew, but take time occasionally to honor.
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