When in first grade, I learned the song “Over the River and Through the Woods“ I was absolutely convinced that it was written about us. It is true that the place in question was close to the river, but not over it, and that we didn’t even cross a single stream to get there, but those were details that escape the mind of a first grader. Of course when we came to the Farm from St. Louis, some years before, we must have crossed the river to get there. One particular evening, sitting in the back seat of the car on the passenger side, my face against the cold window glass, I watched the western sky turn from a brilliant dark autumnal blue to variegated shades of purple and then to near darkness, and sang the song over and over to myself in my mind, puzzling to recollect the exact wording of all the lines I had just learned in school.
The route we took is still there, or at least, sort of. The roads still run from Point A. to Point B., but they meander less, are wider, have big shoulders, smooth surfaces and fewer hills. We would leave out house and get on Main Street , heading south. At the Highway 70 overpass, the road magically became Highway K, passed the P.’s 66 station on the east and the road that went to my kindergarten and Fort Zumwalt State Park on the west, and then we were out in the almost completely open country.
Only a minute or so after crossing the kindergarten road, on the east side of the road, and high up above it, there was an old cemetery, heavily wooded, ringed round with an ancient, wrought iron fence. From the backseat on the driver’s side, one could see some taller Victorian stones, maybe an obelisk, behind the dark and forbidding fence. I most clearly remember it at twilight, on an autumn night, with the long low arching tree branches almost embracing the stones. It was beautiful and I found it enchanting in a strange, compelling way. Another time, it was a brilliant, sunny day and it looked sparkling and romantically beautiful.
Still for all its beauty, when I noticed it, which I didn’t always, I was afraid of that spot, afraid of the ghosts that might still linger in the area, afraid that the stories my m.a. told about ghosts from time to time, just might be true. Her words of consolation when I was terrified of ghosts were not that ghosts didn’t exist but “Why would they want to hurt you?”
The fear engendered by this place rarely lasted more than a few seconds beyond that spot in the road, and may explain why I rarely sat in that position in the car if I could avoid it. Although, whatever side we sat on going to somewhere, we were required to sit in the same spot on the way back. So I must have encountered the graveyard on our way back, but I was frequently asleep, or happily surprised that in the dark, I hadn’t even noticed its presence on the return ride.
My p.a. smoked constantly in the car, and during the early stages, I sat in either side of the back seat, but later, by the time I was in second grade or so, my sibling refused to sit anywhere but behind my m.a. and I was required to sit on the driver’s side, sickened with the constant flow of smoke. In those days the front driver and passenger windows were in two parts, part that rolled down and a small, triangular hinged window. The hinged window was designed to let smoke out if there was a counterbalance on the other side. But if only the little hinged window was open and the rest of the windows were shut tight, it had the effect of merely pushing the smoke to the rear of the passenger compartment. In this case, I was gulping second hand smoke in huge quantities throughout every car ride. Small wonder I had headaches, stomach aches, and eventually, a terrible fear of driving in the car. It was bad enough that it was scary to be in a car with someone who was volatile, and an hysterical person, and the wonder was that we never actually had a wreck, or even saw a truly serious one, in all that time, despite my enormous terror.
But I digress.
I don’t really recall any houses directly on that road, which had some small hills and a great many curves. The fields alongside the roads were lined with hedgerows of large trees and the customary Missouri undergrowth. In the spring, we could see the dignified May Apple plants, with their large umbrella leaves. At one spot along the road, to the west, between the road and a large field that would be sown annually in corn, there were dozens of them, and I would watch, delighted, as they changed from week to week, first only the umbrella, then a large white flower under it and finally the fruits. By the time the huge globular fruits were ripening, the plants were shaded deeply by the full bolls of the old trees. “They’re poisonous,” my m.a. would pronounce, almost bitterly, and though I never heard it from anyone else, I am reliably assured that others believed the same thing. Decades later, I would find out that people for generations in that area had made May Apple Jelly. And apparently pies from the completely ripe, yellow fruit, which has been described as “insipid“. The balance of the plant, and its root are, indeed, poisonous but are used in a number of commercial medications in the United States.
Of course, when I was young,, all that mattered to me was that they were graceful, stately and a beautiful green. To the east, the land sloped upward slowly, treeless, and from the road to the crest of the hill, some half a mile away, perhaps, there were grain fields that changed color with the passing season from the dark ground of early spring, to the soft light green spray of early spring, to the brilliant green of summer and the golden of late summer. Then the combines would come and cut it down, a sight I loved to see, along the sight of spring plowing. The fields on the west of the road were largely done in corn, that sprang up looking like grass and then grew tall and handsome, each stalk cozily by the next yet in such neat rows that when we drove quickly down the road and I concentrated on looking at the field itself and not just the plants along the edge of the field, the effect was like looking at corduroy, long lines undulating with the rise and fall of the land.
There were a lot of old fences along the road, all of the rough hewn post and wire variety, most fairly old and in fairly bad repair. They were charming though, irregularly placed, the posts jutting up at an odd variety of angles, some reclining completely, worn out by their years of service offering at least cursory effects against the desires of animals who might be inclined to wander in, or out, of their borders. There weren’t many animals, though. Perhaps, in the spring, we’d see a few cows, but for the most part, this was cropland.
In this stretch of road, I liked to look out the window and daydream about things from the past, about the early pioneers and their early counterparts, who had walked in this area, looking for game. When I was very young, and unaware that those people didn’t exist anymore, even in the memories of those who were around then, I watched carefully, half expecting to see them emerging from the woods with their prizes.
There was a four way intersection, at which the travelers on K were not obliged to stop and I prayed constantly that the drivers on the other road would heed. There were two houses visible on that road, one on the north side and one a little further up on the south side. I remember when the one on the south was built. My parents had friends, that is to say, my fa. Had a coworker who bought that place and built a house. Although my instinct was always that it was the house on the north side, my memory of actually visiting the place surprised me. It was the one on the south, and it was planted in the middle of a field on a rise, and when we were there, they didn’t have a lawn yet, and there were residual plants from the preceeding years’ plantings. They had a riding mower though, or some sort of mechanized vehicle that the boys played on. They were loud and boisterous and friendly, and I think my parents didn’t like any of them.
From that intersection to the intersection of Highway 40-61, there weren’t any more houses on the road. The fields were large and the land had flattened out somewhat. The closer we got to 40-61, the more “urbane” things appeared, although, in truth, we were far from urbanity. There was, on the east side, a large concrete square with a concrete flange on the side of it, and a sign on it advertising some company name. My m.a. said it was a septic tank company, which meant little to me. Later, of course, I would realize that they had taken a septic tank and put it alongside the road to show their wares. There were other signs along that stretch of road, on the west side, but what they were for, I’m not completely sure. My hunch is that one of them was an old metal sign advertising a corn breed.
On the west side of the road, as we came to 40-61, there was a conglomeration of older buildings, and there was something very rustic and rough and at the same time wonderful about it. The first building, I believe, was lumberyard, and it was two storeys, more like a two storey porch, open in the front, with a great deal of wood stacked inside it. I remember seeing men walking around with the gravity and weight of someone doing an important job. Most of my memories are at dusk, though, and why they were still working at dusk, I don’t know. I always begged to stop there and buy some lumber, but we never had any need for lumber and my parents preferred to shop at more sophisticated places.
West of the lumberyard, there was a commercial stable, but I don’t think I ever saw any horses. I would have been completely enthralled if I had. Still, I knew it was there, and that was enough.
Somewhere to the west of that, along Highway 40-61, near the intersection with Highway D.D., there was a small house, built perhaps in the early 1930s where they sold decorative items for the yard. We stopped there once, probably in about 1966. My primordial thought is that this was the first place I ever saw a yucca plant, which enthralled me because of the spines and the unusual name. They had things in the yard like burros with wagons and other lawn ornaments and a selection of round planters. We bought one. It was round, and about a foot across at the opening and then about sixteen inches at the widest part, narrowing back down to a foot at the bottom. It didn’t have a rim, just a lip that was slightly rounded, nor did it have a foot. It was clay, although it may have been plaster. It was unglazed, a pale chalky color with a pale green stripe undulating through it. We kept a rubber plant in for years in the basement , and I took a picture of my pa. Standing next to it. It cracked sometime, I believe before we moved up here and was thrown away.. I have looked high and low for something similar. A few years ago, maybe in the early 1990s, I saw some similar to it, but they had been glazed to be shiny, and that simply wouldn’t do. I’m sure the next time one of those nostalgia crazes comes along, or a revival of a revival period, someone will trot them back out again. The technical name for it is a jardinaire, I believe, which is just a large decorative stand or pot for plants or flowers.
Still further up that road, in later years, the couple that had built the house near that intersection would build a small shopping plaza, to accommodate the husband’s engineering firm, the wife’s real estate company, the son’s electrical firm and the daughter’s floral shop. She and her ma may have sold antiques there. We were only there once, also. I will digress and tell that story. It must have been after we had come to Columbia and then returned for a visit or for something having to do with the estate. I remember standing in the office of this building that they had built from the ground up, with a real paved parking lot. I believe there was air conditioning. It was deep summer, and the building was considerably cooler than it was outside.
I was listening to my ma. Put on airs. My sibling was in college, and this and that, although I don’t directly remember my sibling being there. I think we had been in St. Louis, and I think she was wearing the pink suit she had her graduation picture taken in. I was dressed up too, but I don’t remember exactly how, and I held myself very tall. The people in question were friendly and loud and chatty and for all the bravado of our group, I remember looking out the plate glass window and feeling wistfully miserable. For all our airs, we weren’t crap. We didn’t have crap. They had worked a long time, had invested well, had stayed together, and they liked each other. Whether they really “liked” each other or not, whether their house was always peaceful and quiet, is beside the point.
When we left, my ma. And sister pointed out all the things that were inadequate about them, but I felt somewhat humbled and miserable. When I later learned, perhaps in the early 1980s, they had set their daughter up in a florist’s business, I was absolutely green with envy. Of course, it was duly pointed out to me that the daughter was uneducated and couldn’t have done anything on her own if her parents hadn’t set her up and this was a fine example of how inadequate they were, because she should have been able to do something independently. But the truth was, they were doing something and going somewhere, and we just weren’t.
As previously noted, D.D. intersected with 40-61 perhaps a mile west of the junction of K. and 40-61. At that intersection, there were large green storage tanks for gas, presumably gasoline. There was a tall, barbed wire topped fence around it, the kind where the top of the fence comes off at about a thirty degree angle from the rest of the upright part of the fence. I remember my ma. Used to say, every so often, that the U.S. was headed for a cataclysm of major proportion. She loved the word “cataclysm”. She said, “It’s going to be like when they needed gas and the government said there was gas in the tanks but when there was a disaster and the people went to get the gas from the storage tanks, they were alllll empppptyyy.”
Where she got that story from I don’t know, but I always thought about it with a little thrill of horror when I saw those tanks. It would take many years and much reflection and experience to realize that not having gasoline is not a big deal. One merely makes adjustments.
Despite the proximity of D.D. to 40-61, we would turn down toward the river and turn off just before the bridge onto Highway 94. This was the probably the route she was most used to, since she had been coming out there since the 1930s via that route. Highway 40-61 was probably built in the 1950s. It was very urbane, though, done in smooth, pale concrete in nice even lengths. Every few seconds, maybe every five or six seconds, we would go over one the expansion joints in the road and there would be a characteristic sound, “ba-dum, 2, 3, 4, ba-dum” and little jolt. It was not unpleasant. On the contrary it was novel and fun. As time went on, of course, it irritated my parents more and more, who complained bitterly about the condition of the road and tax dollars being wasted. It seemed, as H.D.T. commented about something else, that it, like a woman’s dress, was never completely finished.
There was a wide green median between the two lanes of this four lane highway and on either side it was countryside. Along the road, unless it was on Highway K, there were roadside markers saying that this road was a part of the L. and C. trail. What is that? I asked. The route they had taken in 1804. I was amazed that the highway was that old. I was further amazed, later on, to find that they had been on a great many roads, going in both directions.
The north side of the highway was amicable gentlemanly country of small farms and bungaloes, yards and trees, culminating in a subdivision and little business area at the junction of 40-61 and 94. But the south side, presaging the deep country we were about to enter, was heavily wooded and somewhat forboding in a wonderful way. Just beyond the turn off where we would go south, there was a weight station, and in later years, nearer to 94, a commuter parking lot.
But we would go up the ramp and turn proceed down 94. The character of the land was a little different at that point, a little grassier, more like a lawn. There were stands of cedar trees on both sides of the road. The west side of the road was the B.W.A. A little further up the road, on the east, was the T. Howell Cemetery. It was more spacious than the cemetery previously mentioned, and considerably younger. The burials there mostly of people who didn’t have big obelisks, but more humble stones. The crowing glory of the cemetery was the monument to young T. Howell, who had fallen on the field of honor in France. It was a realistic statue of a doughboy with his bayoneted gun. I don’t know who paid for the statue.
The only thing I really remember distinctly about that graveyard, other than its appearance, was that my ma. Was convinced there was a snake guarding the graves of her parents, one or both. From what, I don’t know. She began saying it probably after R.L.McK was buried there. But it was, or appeared to be, a supernatural snake at that. It was, she said, always there.
There were woods on the east and south side of the cemetery and beyond that was a green water tower that was frequently climbed and spray painted by boys whose pride in their scholastics extended to embellishing the tank with their school name and the year they were to graduate. Further down the road on that side, you could see, in the valley, a large, brilliantly lit industrial type building, which may have ben an electrical plant. On the other side of the road, behind high fences, lay the infamous T.N.T. plant, the Ordnance Works, later on used in the 1940s and 1950s for things that would ultimately leave the area unusable.
Just beyond the entrance to the cemetery and before reaching the water tower, though, we turned off on Highway D. At that point, the T.N.T. buildings were on the south and the Area on the north. The F. Howell High School lay along that road, although it seems to me that I rarely, if ever looked at it, and I’m not even sure at this point, which side of the road it was on. Instinct tells me it was on the south, but reason tells me it was on the north. Whatever the case, I didn’t notice it much. There must have been something else nearby that attracted my attention more. There were lots of lakes in the nature area, and we would see men, mostly, and boys, fishing from the shore. I didn’t realize until I looked at aerial photographs, that they were mostly triangular or oblong shapes, not in any way close to natural bodies of water. Way up in the area, there was another graveyard, the F. Howell Cemetery, where the Bacons were buried, but we never went up there.
What never occurred to me was that during all that time, we were driving along roads that had gone through the towns that my m.a. had been so familiar with in her youth. When she was young there had been houses, churches, stores, gas stations, cemeteries, people had visited back and forth, gossiped, had dances and parties. All of that was not only gone, but she never made mention of it, and even recently, when I looked at maps, I was shocked to see that we were right in the middle of the towns of H. and M. She would mention that Hamburg was down that road with a disinterested gesture and we went there once, but it was never a big deal.
The road turned sharply to the south and when it straightened out to run west again, there was a ranger lookout station along the outside curve on the south side of the road. It was primarily of wooden construction, I think, and fascinated me. There was a tiny building alongside the tower, which, as we got out of the car and walked toward it, I was surprised to see was the size of a normal building. Atop the tower perched a small wooden platform with a roof and a guardrail that looked like something from a dollhouse small from the ground. One day, I believe my grandfather may have been with us, my parents decided to stop there. My p.a. wanted to climb to the top and although I had been very interested in doing that, when we started out, I noticed several things before we got to the second set of stairs. One was that I was very small, and it was very tall. By the fourth set of stairs, I couldn’t avoid noticing that as the tiny observation deck got larger, the things on the ground, the car, and my m.a. who had flatly refused to even set one foot on a single stair, were getting smaller. I was above the level of the treetops, which, as I knew from experience, were quite tall. My sibling, four, or perhaps five, depending on the time of year, years in excess of me, was jaunting up the rickety, open steps, my p.a. was admonishing me from well above me, not to look down, and I began trembling violently, got dizzy, and I believe, weak in the knees. I remember clinging to the wooden handrail in a total state of terror. I couldn’t go up or down. I have a memory of looking out over woods from an observation deck but it may have been from a movie or television. I don’t know how I got down from there that afternoon.
The road would weave back and forth before straightening out and finally meeting D.D. As we approached the intersection, there was a big sports field where in the summer we saw crowds of noisy men and boys playing ball. The field was attached to a little store. When I was there, that was the only thing left at the intersection. There may have been, cater cornered from the store, and I can’t guarantee this, in the deep undergrowth, the remains of an old house, falling down and long since abandoned. I took a photograph once probably in 1966 to 1968, another quick snap from the car, a picture that I never could afterwords figure out where I had taken it. My guess now is that this was the falling down I.B. ouse, later to be removed completely. There was a little road that continued beyond D., across the intersection of D.D. but it was narrow, and unpaved and circled behind and met D.D. further down the road, probably a vestige of the pre 1930s roadway.
The land directly across from the old B. house, which lay on the southwest corner, was land that I would learn later on belonged to W. B., another distant relative. His cemetery, though lost was back up in the woods on the south eastern part of his land.
The land and the road now changed character dramatically. There were tighter hills, taller than those on K., and I would frequently “lose my stomach” which was a way they described the G. forces, whatever those are, that gave a nasty little sickening, but sometimes entertaining effect. The faster the driver went, of course, the more exaggerated the feelings were. A little was fine, but too much was too much. I think there were three big hills along the road, one after another, and then the driveway for the farm.
There were two driveways, actually, both gravel, both running off to the east with only a few yards between them. The farm to the north was always called the P. Place and I don’t believe, in my time, that there was a house there anymore. This would have been, I believe, the southern edge of W. B.' property.
There was one that ran off to the west as well and that bordered what at one time had been the McK.’s orchard,. If there were actually fruit trees in it when I was there, I didn’t make note of them, and in fact, I believe that property had passed out of the McK hands by that time. although there was another orchard to the south on the east side of the road.
There was an old, dilapidated blue and white trailer parked in that area just to the north of the drive to the Farm, and behind it stood a windmill, which to my thinking at that point was very tall. But now, having seen the standard old windmills, I am convinced it was just a normal one, and it was me that was small. There were also several mailboxes that time had not been gentle with. Everything upright in the neighborhood, from the watertower to the feed and grain signs to the mailboxes were full of bullet holes from aspiring young shootists.
The drive was a long gravel one, two tire tracks with a little grassy mound between them. It circled around a large old shady tree. To the northeast, there was a large gorgeous barn, fallen, of course, upon difficult times, as everything else did. I only recall being in there once or twice, wading through grass up to my shoulders in places and being screamed at, “Watch out for snakes” and “Keep those dogs away from you”…to which a logical person would answer, how?
I couldn’t see the ground much less look out for snakes and the dogs were boisterous and friendly, though to me they looked cunning and dangerous.
Just ahead of the large tree and to the south of it a little, beyond the house, was the chicken house, with its bare yard tall fence and characteristic smell. I remember watching, with wonder, the chickens sitting on the top of the house. Sometimes they would be out and wandering around at large, pecking things off the ground. If they ever ate the eggs or the chickens, I certainly never heard about it.
The house was a big old one. It was always referred to as “The Farm”. W.McK and his wife had purchased it in the early 1920s. The events that transpired in the house were noteworthy, but the house itself was noteworthy as well.
The house was a two story Queen Anne. Queen Anne houses were popular from about 1870 to 1910 and the name derives from the fact that they used structural or ornamental elements that were introduced into architecture during her reign in the early 1700s. These houses could be quite elaborate, but the fundamentals of the style include a steeply pitched slate roof, gables that face the front with brackets under the eaves, jigsaw cut trim, bay windows that were sometimes two storeys, an irregular, non symmetrical shape, often with side wings, patterned “fish scale” shingles, and large porches. More elaborate ones would include spindle work ornamentation, towers, beautifully patterned masonry on the chimneys and ornate patterns of panes in the windows.
Some will argue that a Queen Anne house has to be brick, but that’s not necessarily the case. The style originated in England in 1868, although the Americans, with their indomitable spirit of independence, adapted it to their own uses quite admirably. Although the style reached America in the early 1870s, it had a slow passage west, arriving in C. in about 1880. It can, therefore, be estimated that it would arrive in rural Missouri sometime between 1880 and 1890.
It’s very easy to dismiss it as, “just an old farmhouse”, but there were many styles of old farmhouse, from Greek Revival and I shaped to Gothic. This house was considerably different from its neighbors, scant though they were. The house occupied by I.B., for example, which was located only about a half mile away on the same road, was a frame I-house built probably in the 1860s and there were a number of falling down Gothic Revival houses from the 1870s to 1880s in the area as well.
The best guess is that the house was built in the 1880s from a set of blueprints that came from mail order, since a great many houses, apparently, were procured in that way in those days. Sears, Roebuck and Company actually sold the entire kit to build one or two storey houses in those years.
Despite protestations by some, all Queen Anne houses were not garishly painted with contrasting trim or shutters. In fact, this one was either always white or without paint.
The yard was raised above the level of the road by probably several feet, undoubtedly the result of many years of heavy wagons and cars rolling up and down the road before it was paved. The yard was dotted with large old trees. There was a large porch that spanned about three quarters of the front of the house and probably had diagonal lattice work over the borrom part of it. There was a path of half buried flagstones alond the front to the step or so up onto the porch. In the spring, there were daffodils that bloomed between the path and the house, although fewer than one might expect for the number of years the house had been there. In the yard there was at least one forsythia that burst into sickly yellow blooms every spring, a color which I thought odd and unnatural then, but have come to love, at least on shrubs of that kind. There were also one or two of those Asian shrubs with the huge fragrant pink flowers with multiple petals. They don't last long. The first good rain after they bloom, of course, does away with all the blossoms.
There were several whitewashed truck tires in the yard as well, that made planters for some sort of flowers, perhaps day lilies. There must have been a multiplicity of spring flowers as well, dainty little voluneers like spring beauties and violets, but if there were, they probably came in the early spring when the yard was far too wet and our shoes far too expensive, to allow having one meet the other. To the south of the house was an old post and wire fence that separated the yard from the orchard, a rather sad place with rows and rows of gnarled trees. I didn't know at that time that fruit trees in orchards are pruned to be gnarled. I thought it was the result of some awful misfortune. Still, I don't believe it ever produced anything, or at least not anything that we saw. There were certainly at least a dozen trees and should have produced admirably.
Between the house and the orchard there was an ancient tree with an old home made swing that I loved, and a few more tire planters. The bay windows were on that side of the house and there was a rickety stairwell that I never set foot on, being apparently adequately warned away, along the south side of the house.
For the most part, the front porch was kept sealed up, to avoid the drafts of winter, and my recollection is of tattered plastic hanging from the windows on the inside. Along the west wall, my grandm had a whitewashed table that held her collection of flowers and plants, mostly housed in makeshift planter. My most vivid recollections were of the coffee cans that were used for that purpose and I remember the smell of the dirt and the plants mingled with the smell of aging metal. She had one plant, I believe, that bloomed with a tiny pink flower. I would guess it was a begonia, especially since that was a word, along with forsythia, that I remember clearly from very early times. When I had access to the "big camera" and it had the very rare roll of color film in it, I took a picture of the flowers and was disappointed when the picture came back that it didn't look like something from the botanical garden. In reality, I had only seen the beauty, and smelled it, but on reflection, with only a photograph, it looked shabby and dirty. In truth, it was dirty. Everything was worn and many things soiled, but to a kid, or to the adults who were used to being just plain country folks, it wasn't a big deal.
To enter the house, one opened the large ornately carved front door. It had a large window in it, with an interesting configuration of lights. The windows also had interesting peculiarities about the lights, with the bottom sashes being one piece of glass and the top ones a combination of smaller panes and perhaps some diamond shapes at the top. Directly across from the front door and set a little to the south, was a closed stairwell, with a door at the bottom of it that was always kept open. The room, which had once been a dining room with a large table in it, now served as my grandf.'s bedroom. There was a large iron bed with a rounded iron pipe headboard, with a dusky mauve bedspread on it, that had some sort of design on it. What were those called? Hmmmm...
Next to the bed, in front of the window, was an old nondescript nightstand and on it, on a doily, sat a driftwood lamp with a seriously yellowed shade. On the east side of the room was a large old woodburning stove, and beside it sat a pile of wood in some seasons and the detritus of wood in others. The floor was covered with dirty, worn linoleum.
From that room, one went east into the kitchen. It was, perhaps a larger room than the dining room, but they were probably fairly equal in size. On the west side of the room, there was a stove, probably of 1950s vintage, and gas. Next to that was either a second woodburning stove or what remained of one. There was a hole for a flue in the wall and it was covered with a tin plate, in the same exact fluted design as paper plates, with a C. and I.'s print in the center of it. NExt to it was a box on the wall for matches, with a place to strike them, a calendar with notes, I believe, all over it, and a plaque that extolled the Legend of the Dogwood tree. I had been told they were everywhere in that area, but never saw one for many years.
On the north wall, there were white, glass fronted cabinets and below that a sink under the kitchen window. At one time there hadn't been water at all, then a mechanical pump, then perhaps an electric one, but by this time, it seemed that one just turned the handle and water came out. The glasses were kept in the shelf above and to the east of the sink and the cabinets turned and went down the east wall as well along with a counter below them. Where they stopped, next to the east window, there was a refrigerator, certainly older than ours, rounded along the corners and stocked with things we never even considered. They always had soda, and I remember being offered a soda, a bottle produced and opened and set in front of us. My m.a. insisted that we have glasses and ice, and shared the soda between my sibling and I, and the glasses were brought down, with some consternation, from the shelf. They apparently didn't have plastic, which my m.a. generally insisted on and there was some verbal tusselling. My m.a. gave up and we drank soda from satisfyingly sweaty red glasses with Balinese dancers on them. It was, I believe, the last time we consumed anything in that house. We were duly instructed never to accept anything from that point on.
I always sat in a straight back wooden chair on the west side of the room. I believe there were dark wood cabinets along that wall. They may have been in two pieces. The base was solid with unadorned swinging panels to gain access to the contents therein, and above there was a second piece, a little narrower that had glass fronts. Since my back was always to them, I have very little knowledge of what they contained.
The door leading out of the kitchen was on the south side, in the east corner. Between the doorway and the beginning of the cabinets there were a variety of interesting things standing up against the wall, primarily in the form of a firearms of different ages. I believe there was a sword as well, but it may not have been among those effects.
Upon opening the kitchen door, one was again on another porch. There was a door on the west side, toward the house, which entered into some room, but I don't know which, or else accessed some secret place in the house, perhaps a cold room or cellar. Stacked against that wall were fifty pound bags of P.D.C. and the herd of dogs who were regularly in baying attendance on anyone who arrived, would wag and drool at the hint that someone who might be able to gain access to the treasured bags, was on the premises. The rest of the porch was filled with nondescript junk and it had glass windows on both the narrow south side and the wide east side.
This was, of course, the door that we always came in. It was, in fact, the last place that I saw my g.f. He had a coronary in the kitchen standing up to make a point in a story, and fell dead. We were called immediately and by the time we arrived and were stepping into the porch, they were taking his sheet covered body out on a guerney. Somehow, in my mind, as sanitized and unemotional a scene as it was, I didn't comprehend what I was seeing.
Going back to the front door, if one turned to the south immediately upon entering, one was in the front parlor, the room with the large bay window. There was a piano on the north wall of that room and probably a settee on the east wall. There were some dressers, some small tables and other things that crowded the room. In the southeast corner of it there was a television on a television table with "rabbit ears" topping it to fine tune the reception. A table sat in front of it and an overstuffed chair with other chairs near it in a little clump. We were not allowed to watch television at our own house, but they would frequently have it on when we arrived and in the course of the evening, my sibling and I would stray in and watch sometimes atrocious 1960s programs on television free from interference of a parental kind. My m.a. would yell later, of course, but she was a little loathe to raise a scene in the house.
To the east of that room, and entered from it, there was another bedroom with a very large bed in it. It was always kept dark, as far as I know. I was afraid of it, terrified of ghosts. Later I would learn that it was the room in which my greatgm had departed this world. It seems likely that I was told that at some point and remembered it at least vestigially. I believe that this room, too, was packed.
The upstairs was another forbidden zone. I think I was there once before my g.p. died and then I was there enough that it formed a distinct impression. The stairwell was dark and musty. At the top of the stairs was a small landing, brightly lit by a dirty paned window. There was a hallway that ran down the north side of the stairwell. From the landing, one could enter one of two rooms on either side, and I believe there was a second room behind the one on the east, that was accessed from that hallway. Probably the entrance to the fourth room was across another small hall from the room on the southwest side, but I couldn't guarantee that. Whatever the case, the upstairs rooms were a little like King T.'s Tomb, full of mouldering, but interesting items, from photographs and prints, to a peculiar collection of books, boxes of letters, furniture, clothing, old hats from the turn of the century and all manner of other curiosities, including a ouiji board. Although I was told that my grandparents stored many things for other people, it seems that the bulk of the items and the books were from the late 1860s to the first decade of the 1900s, and a great number of the books dealt with health, mysticism, marriage and other recondite topics. It was, indeed, like a time machine, so much so, that whereas I noted it, I didn't fully realize what it meant. There were slides from Europe in World War I, of doughboys and bombed cathedrals. There was a German spiked helmet, obviously from World War I. The hat I received, with a beautiful feather and rhinestone hatpin had gone out of fashion by 1920. The fox furpiece may have been from the 1920s. I remember him so clearly, and regret his loss so deeply.
There were toys and dolls, but nothing of a vintage newer than the 1920s. There weren't any indications in the entire house that the McK.s had a store in St. Louis, although it's possible that those large cabinets in the kitchen had formed part of their displays. There weren't any indications that anyone had been there since the 1920s, although S.McK. who used the upstairs as her area while she rented out the main part of the house, hadn't died until the mid 1950s. Whatever the case, my grandparents, though they worked, had acquired little in the way of material goods.
The inventory for the sale describes several marble topped dressers, and they were there, and beautiful, though kept piled with things and rarely, if ever, cleaned or seen. They are in someone else's possession now, somewhere in the world and I can only look at things that are similar and wonder about them. The barn, too, was full of all sorts of goods, too numerous to mention or even comprehend. What happened to the dogs, the cats, the chickens?
There was a cellar in the house. On the east side there was a green painted cellar door against the house, but I never even saw into it once, I don't believe. I only once peeked into the chicken house, although I don't know how I ever got inside the fence without my m.a. screaming. The chicken house was a scary place. It backed up into the wood and I had heard so many monster and ghost stories I was petrified of the darkness and the possibilities that woods provided. It didn't assist matters either that my relatives all liked to tell eerie stories with the air that it was all absolutely true. Although I didn't consciously know it until much later, or perhaps I did, my g.f. said that on the night his m.a. departed this world, he walked outside in the late night and saw his f.a. by the chicken yard, and he felt a sense of calm. When he went back in the house, she was gone or shortly thereafter. There were other stories about people having visions of Jesus, who warned them of the impending doom of the world and then disappeared, and other such tales, none of which were either comforting or entertaining to a small youngster with a nervous disposition.
The ride home would be punctuated with arguments, generally. In fact, on the odd nights when there weren't arguments, it would be calm in a manner that was terrifying. My f.a. would angrily denounce my m.a.'s entire gens as ignorant idiot and she would support the supernatural stories without supporting the carriers of the tales. They may be idiot, but the stories were true. Some nights she would be the one that would lash out critically about the people she had heard stories about, or the way that her parents had behaved, or, in the worst case, that we had done some forbidden act, like watching television or accepting something.
There were innumerable cats on the premises. When I was still a preschooler one of the cats had kittens and I was amazed and astounded at how little and beautiful they were. My grandm recognized my interest and told me I could have one. I told her I would love to have one but my m.a. would never allow me to have an animal. This was, of course, an inviable rule. We had a parakeet. That was a pet. There would not be any others. But she just smiled a little wryly and told me to put it under my coat and by the time we got home, there wouldn't be anything my m.a. could do about it. But I was terrified what she might do about it and so declined.
These are examples of a lot of different styles of architecture from the 1800 through early 1900s. The last house is the one most similar in temperament to The Farm.http://deis.i69indyevn.org/DEIS/appendix/N/AppendixN_p300-308.pdf http://architecture.about.com/library/weekly/aa043000a.htm http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/cdap/pages/-3780-/
On May Apples…http://groups.yahoo.com/group/homegrowncanning/message/1222http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_mayapple.htm FONT>