Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Old Country

Yesterday I interviewed two sisters in their seventies whose house burned down. They had lived there since 1944. I learned about them through a retired real estate agent/ used car salesman, who drove me from the First State Bank to their aunt’s house, where they are staying during rebuilding efforts. On the drive, he said, “These girls are from another time.”

The property was gone and cleaned up — so I’ve never seen even a picture of what it looked like — but still yielded plenty of secrets. In a pile of burned out metal scrap, I found parts of a victrola. They apparently had a large collection of 78s. I asked about potential artists, and they couldn’t remember.

“A lot of old country,” they said.

“Like Jimmie Rodgers?”

“Yeah, and him.”

So that dates it to before 1933. It’s a real shame that a collection like that is gone. I can only imagine what was in there. They also had a violin from the 1500's that burned up.

Also in the dirt I found several square nails. I put one in my pocket. Immediately, it reminded me off the nails that went up online after “The Passion of The Christ” came out. I started thinking about a report I read saying that severing a certain nerve in the muscle between the thumb and forefinger is considered one of the most intense experiences of pain possible.

This nail is pretty amazing. There are apparently three ways of making nails: hand-made, cut nails, and wire nails. Wire nails are what we used today. This, I think, is a cut nail, meaning it was machine cut from a piece of steel. That probably dates the house before 1900. The nail is exactly four inches long (size 20d in nail terms), and the shaft is slightly v-shaped instead of straight. I don’t know how that wouldn’t split the wood.

The man who cleaned through the pile of scrap also found their class rings from high school, and one was a valedictorian.

On the side of the property was an outhouse. They had never installed indoor plumbing. The closest they allowed pipes was to the front porch, but not inside the house. Next to the outhouse was a chicken coop, and they used to raise chickens for meat and eggs until the wolves and snakes started getting bad.

They lived on 75 acres of cotton and corn growing land, which was unharmed due to wind direction. Every year they rent it out to an 80-year-old farmer who harvests the crop and pays them in money and corn. They have never signed a contract.

1 comment:

Jonathan Blundell said...

You've got to wonder how little stress they must have been under.
Makes me want to move out to some farmhouse in the middle of tim-buck-to Texas or New Mexico