Saturday, February 16, 2008

I am a scavenger. I love to dig through boxes at flea markets, uncovering dusty artifacts and moving aside junk to find that one perfect treasure! I love to drive along back roads and spot a sizable trash pile with what looks like a wooden chair leg poking out from underneath a black garbage bag. I've walked through the woods and found half-buried bottles and jars and even long-forgotten toys. Whether I need to pay for a little found treasure or dig it up in the dirt, I am a scavenger at heart and I love to find someone else's trash and turn it into cash!

When we lived at the old house, in the land next to us was an abandoned, two-story wooden house. The windows were long ago smashed in, the doors taken off the hinges, the wood had faded to the color of grey headstones in a graveyard. Visitors looked at that old house and told us it was "creepy". We thought it was charming and always felt a pull to go inside and snoop around in there. There were old metal bed frames blocking the doorway that could easily be pulled aside, but living in the country where trespassers were likely shot, we kept away. Vultures made their home inside the top floor and every morning you would see them hunched up on top of the roof or in the nearby trees. I counted 17 of them once and always loved watching them fly off in great shows of majestic wingspans and watching them circle the skies before they landed.

We asked about the house and learned that it used to be where slaves lived. Up the long dirt drive that snaked behind our house, was a large brick home that was built before the Civil War and was part of a huge piece of land that, little by little, got sold off until the current owner bought it. He was a bit of a hermit, but he was nice to us and always greeted us with a nod of his head and a wave when he drove by our house, and when asked how he was, he always answered "Blessed." During the Civil War, the brick house got taken over and used as a makeshift hospital, but we aren't sure by which side.

He told us that there was a slave graveyard with no markers beyond a grove of trees near a shelter, but we couldn't tell where he was pointing to. We did slip over to the old house when we knew he wasn't home and Hubby actually went inside the old house and explained what it looked like to me. I was not as brave as he was, and imagined myself falling through the old floors that were eaten away by termites and dry rot. Our hermit neighbor had cows and he told us that the cows once got in the house and broke through the floor and got stuck until rescued with a tractor, which is why there was an old bed frame blocking the doorway. I wanted to go in so badly and I envied Hubby, but my fear was too great to overcome.

We found an old trash pile nearby the house and found all sorts of discarded glass bottles and jars. Most were still in perfect condition, though filled with dirt and muck from over the years. We grabbed a bunch and cleaned them up. Antique pickle jars, Clorox bleach bottles from the 40's, and many others. Some we kept for us, and others we sold.

We made friends with the neighbor and he invited us in to his old brick house/mansion. It was in need of repair and I don't know if he would ever restore it to it's former glory. It would be a shame if it was left to fall apart. The main part of the building was in fairly good shape and a later addition was clearly separating, settling into the ground and leaving a wide gap between the connection points. The stately front porch and rails had collapsed and he was using the entrance from the rear. Going into the door, you entered a huge foyer with equally huge stairs leading to the second floor. In true 1800 fashion, there were doorways along the foyer, which you went into a formal sitting room or a library or the kitchen. I would have loved to live there and restore it, and I hope that if he ever sells, it will be restored and not torn down.

We think about our old neighbor often and always talk about going back to visit him, but life happens and we never get around to getting up there again. One day...


DJ Kirkby said...

What a fabulous story!

barefoot gardener said...

I, too, love the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of the find. I love to think about who may have owned the things I find, what their lives might have been like. I do the same thing with old buildings and paths I have never been down.

Sparx said...

Wow, what a great place to have near you. I bet it would make a great photo shoot. The old guy sounds really interesting as well - as does his home... you're lucky to have that kind of history near you. I bet loads of folks would be interested in visiting somewhere like that, it's a real piece of history.