Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Historical or Just Plain OLD?

The house at left is not our house but it's probably what our house looked like when it was built around 1913. The original building, constructed of adobe bricks almost a foot thick, was a single story home consisting of two bedrooms, a kitchen and pantry and a central living room with a massive stone fireplace. Set into the fireplace are two heart shaped rocks. There is also a heart shape formed into one of the original concrete stoops. We can only guess at the story behind these. But, it's neat to think that at the very first this house was filled with love. It's like the makings of a cowboy romance novel, isn't it?

One of the original owners, bless him, planted a good number of cottonwood and elm trees around the place. The original driveway slanted up the hill passing the big main barn that burned down many years ago and the smaller milking barn, which still stands today. That and the three grain bins that survive are proof that there were once productive days of farming here. The section that this homestead originally owned may well have been planted to winter wheat, and maybe even corn once upon a time.

Our house is on a little hill just east of an old Colorado train stop town, founded in the 1860s. Since the house is a landmark, everyone has a story about it. One old guy told us that he learned to break horses here and was thrown into the old corale fencing many a time in the process. Many people boarded their horses here. The superintendent of schools lived in this house back in the fifties. We've heard from the old timers that this place was a working dairy back in the day. Another old farmer told us that he remembers a teenage kid delivering milk from the back of a horse drawn wagon during WWII, in order to conserve gasoline. It was a pig farm for a while, too. But, it's just been a dry land hobby farm now for many years.

By the time we came along about ten years ago, the old house and outbuildings had seen better days. Most of the trees were still hanging in there, but just about everything else was a shambles. So, we set to fixing it all up as best as we could.

As we've cleaned out the outbuildings, removed and built fencing and dug gardens, we've stumbled across many artifacts. And lots of tangled up barbed wire.

So, what else are ya gonna do with a bunch of old artifacts and barbed wire ~ but make a wreath out of it? As we find bits and pieces of history, we tuck it into the wreath. It makes for an interesting western-looking display on the side of the house. Like so:
Some pieces have fallen off, but here it is right now and some of its "decorations," below:
A bit of an old "sad iron"
One of the four rusted old horseshoes in there.

Here's the head of an old hammer.
One of the old medicine bottles we've found.The casing of an old pocket watch

But Really...

I won't lie to you and pretend that living in history doesn't have its down sides. Like, have you ever heard of a grease trap? Well, if you haven't, you don't want to know. We're also the proud owners of an ancient 75' well. All new parts, pumps, and tank, mind you, but our water is so hard, we have to pay our water softener time and half with vacations just so it won't walk out on the job.

There is not a straight line in or outside of the entire house; it was built before codes existed and everything was "eyeballed." The roofline is so steep, it's impossible to fit it with gutters, and the foundation consists of whatever odds and ends of brick and rock the original builder could scrape together. Every time the wind blows, we imagine we can feel the house stretching its arms out to hold its hat on. But, in spite of all that, it truly is rock solid.
(That house up there is not ours, thank goodness...)

Honestly, when the wind blows a gale, like it does here on the plains most of the time, we barely hear it inside the house, due to the foot-thick walls. And it's a good thing the house is airtight, because we don't have central heat, but rely on a '50s era propane furnace located in the center of the house, and a woodstove in the dining room.

Because it was all so dated, we've had to replace every bit of plumbing on the entire property, and, well, I won't get into the electrical, except to say I can't iron and listen to the radio in my room if anyone in the room upstairs has static electricity on their sweater...

That's history for ya. Ya gotta love it. Or something.

But, it's all good. There really is a different feeling to living in an old house, a feeling of lives lived here. I like our part in providing that continuity of hard work ~ like fixing fences, washing dishes and hanging laundry ~ that have gone on in this place for so long.

Besides, someone's got to keep the ghosts company.

(Have I mentioned the ghosts?)


Marie said...

No, you haven't mentioned the ghosts, and now you're going to have to tell us about them!

I lived in a haunted hotel once...

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to hear more about the ghosts!

nutmeg said...

Great post.

What about those ghosts?


Dori said...

No central heating!? I lived in an old villa with 3 foot thick rock walls, and even with a heater in every room, I was frozen all winter! How do you manage!?
And ghosts? Do tell!

Lisa said...

I'll be putting together a ghost story post here for ya, as soon as I can, friends. That will be a fun one!

I've just had an intriguing offer fall in my lap to illustrate a children's book ~ I'm a twitter with nervousness and excitement. I haven't made a proposal yet, or officially met with the author, but the idea of getting a chance at the business of my dreams (after all these years!)has got me reeling and running mentally in all different directions at once! I'm tellin y'all out here on the back porch, because I'm too nervous about it to make a "public" mention... And this is where the "in" crowd hangs out, isn't it? ~gg~ (Just kidding!) But, if you can send up a quick word for me to know if this is a direction I'm supposed to be going right now ~ I'd sure appreciate a postcard from God about it! Send Him stamps, would y'all??

Lisa said...

Dori ~ Yeah, we freeze in winter! We're talkin' long johns and lots of blankets. We do use a couple of space heaters when it gets really cold, but they're so expensive to run, we try to avoid them. Let me tell you (though you already know!), if there's one thing to make you feel like a pioneer, lack of central heat is it! We have priced getting a boiler and radiators, though, and may be doing that this fall. Praise God! I hope that works out! (I've had enough of being a pioneer!)

GrandmaK said...

I love your story. Three years ago on our way (really our of the way) to the family reunion in Longmont, Ron wanted to stop by the ranch his grandfather had owned and where he had lived until he was about 4 years old near Peyton. It was amazing to hear the stories he told and be able to see in real life what the photos showed when he was a child. Not much at all had changed...even the out house and pump were still out back...It was really lovely terrain and a glorious windy day! Thanks for the journey into the past...It certainly gives life to those who came before. Cathy

GrandmaK said...

Drat...meant to tell you that I have soon to be 9 grandchildren and books are what I love to give...I can hardly wait to hear the tale you will be spinning...I suspect a dove will be the one who will bring your answer...Prayers being sent!!!Cathy

SuzyQ said...

What an interesting post!
I just love old houses full of history and stories!
A few years ago I live in a 200 year old house for a while so I had to smile when you talked about "not a straight egde either inside or outside".
And the ceilings are so low on old houses too aren't they?

Lisa said...

Cathy ~ I know where Peyton is! &:o) I think that one thing out here on the plains is that there's never been a whole lot of money, and so things are either left to disintigrate, or the people that move into the old places don't have the means to change them much! Like us! Thanks for the prayers and words of encouragement! I'm watching for that dove!

Suzy! What a treat to see you! I've missed you! Isn't it funny how we think a hundred year old house is old out here, where in your part of the world, my house is a youngster! &:o) Yes, our ceilings are very low! It's a mixed blessing in that they do conserve heat, but it does feel a bit cramped sometimes. My boys can touch the ceiling by barely stretching up their arms.

Bia said...

Now that's a house with character!! And if you have ghosts . . . that's just icing on the cake!

Anyway, here's my postcard from Georgia (couldn't find my heavenly stamps): Go directly to illustrator . . . we're all cheering for you!!!!

Let us know more details as they come!!!

Kaila said...

I love old farm houses. I have on old horse-shoe my Grandpa gave me. I love the old wood and everything. I just find it beautiful!

Anne said...

Lisa, loving the old house stories!

Praying the book deal works out!