Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The house that time forgot

With more time left after my visit to the farm park, I decided to head out to Winder to ride my bike. I had strapped it to the top of my car for this purpose. I drove too far and passed my turn. So I turned onto the next available road.

Trying to get my bearings, I pulled into this driveway. A teeny, tiny little house with the owner's clothes hanging out to dry. Very cute little place. Then, when I figured out where I was, I continued on my way.

When I saw this abandoned house, I was drawn to it. It was falling apart, literally. The back half had already fallen over and was crumpled in a heap with the other half threatening to fall at any moment. I parked the car and walked around the outside, peering into the windows. The smell of must and male cat hit me strongly. The mold was thick on the walls and clothes and furniture were strewn all over. I wish I could have gone in to explore all the things left behind but I didn't dare. I walked through thick patches of poison ivy as I made my way to the back of the house.

When I got to the back and saw what laid before me, I began to put together a story about what happened. I have two scenerios. One day, when an older couple was out working in their garden, or fixing something in the barn, they heard a thunderous sound and they ran out to see that their house crumbling before their eyes. Distruaght, they never returned to salvage what they could. But I think my other story is more likely. An old man's wife had died and he was living alone. One day, he didn't wake up either. His family wasn't interested in the house, barn or any of the belongings found in either. They left everything as is and never returned to it. Eventually, the house fell into complete disrepair until it fell apart. Now, it has been sold and a subdivision is being built on the land so the house (and all the stories) will disappear with it.

There is nothing this house didn't have in it, except for hopefully the body of the man mentioned in the above story. Empty suitcases, furniture, clothes, a meat grinder, medicine, glass jars, kitchen equipment, papers, books.

Sifting through everything, I found a briefcase that contained a scrapbook of newspaper articles. The first article mentioned two children with the last name of Smith who died in a house fire. I think that they were Robert's sons. Robert P. Smith is who I believe owned this house. His name was on the papers I found as well as every book. The other articles in the scrapbook were all of people who died in fires. Was I looking at the papers of a man whose sons died in a fire he set? Or did the freak accident that caused his sons' deaths cause him to be obbsessed about others who had met the same fate? I think he sold fire alarms for a living from some of the other papers I saw so I am more inclined to think that his sons' deaths were a complete accident and it spurred him in to action to save the lives of others. He was also good at short hand. I felt guilty for peering into this man's life but it was fascinating that I could find so much information in a heap of rubble from more than 30 years ago. Looking at the evidence, I think Robert met his demise on December 30, 1973, possibly Jan. 1, 1973. He was the guy that had all the papers delivered to his house and he stuffed all the papers and handed them out to the deliverers. That would explain the stacks of newspapers tucked inside the barn. They were delivered but he never woke up to get them ready and so there they have stayed for 3 decades, preserved as if they were sealed in a time capsule.

The clothes also tell me it was in the 70's. This jacket was by itself but there were a LOT of them.

A neat stack of moth and bug eaten clothes laid in a huge pile. How curious, I thought, for them to be stacked so nicely on the ground. But upon further inspection, this pile was the closet. When the house fell apart, the clothes hanging on the rod landed on each other.

They were even still on their hangers.

Seeing these 2 quilts killed me that I had to leave them behind.
A woman, preparing her family for the cold winter ahead, spent hours, bent over the fabric, painstakingly hand piecing and quilting these beauitful quilts, works of art even. I could see the dresses, shirts and aprons that the family members had worn before the clothes were too worn to wear and the fabric was salveged to make these quilts. It kept generations warm, it provided color to a drab, humble dwelling. They were something the maker was proud of. I could feel the love put into them as I touched the fabrics and admired the skilled work of the needle.

Robert and his wife are gone now but they have touched my life. Not because they did anything profound (at least not that I know of) but because they simply were. I wish I could have met them and heard their stories. But I only have speculations and some pictures of some old things that soon no one will ever have the opportunity to see again. Progress pushes the world further ahead and leaves less in its wake then in past times. It's sad.


Heather and Thomas Mann said...

Wow... that would be intersting to find. Too bad you couldn't salvage the quilts. They looked beautiful. So cool that you can find beauty and inspiration in everything. What a great trait. Love you!

Donna said...

If no one was claiming those quilts, they really would be worth rescuing! I'd love them moth eaten and all! Priceless! I restore antique quilts as one of my many hobbies. :o)

Thanks for the nice comment about how to copy clothes.

I love your story..I've always loved stopping along the road especially for old houses. It sounds so fun!

Tiff :o) said...

Donna, I actually have been doing a little detective work to track down the owner of the land so I can ask permission to save a few things like that. I am at my next to last lead...I'll see how it goes but I will get them if possible. I just don't feel right taking anything without permission even though I know no one cares about them.

Us said...

Wow! That is really cool. You're like a biking detective. :) It's amazing how much you were able to learn from just the finds left in an abandoned house. Good luck tracking them down.

Stella Andes said...

You are awesome! You are a real detective. The other day we saw something off the side of the road, and Dad invented this story about what had happened, but it was totally without foundation. You have done a lot of searching. Cool!

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