Saturday, June 05, 2010

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

Since purchasing my new camera, I've had this crazy idea to go take pictures of abandoned places. I have not, however, had visions of being arrested for trespassing. What's a girl to do? There was one place I could go. Without divulging the exact location, I'll tell you what I did.

My family comes from farms, both Mom and Dad growing up among trees and fields. Mom's family has since moved to towns for the most part. Dad's family still owns land. On that land, there is an old house and some outbuildings that are owned by my grandmother. Before going out to the farm, I called Grandma to get permission, and I called the nearest neighbor--another relative--to tell him I'd be around (and not to shoot at the pretty girl in the red shirt (not that he'd shoot anyone, but it's not exactly populated out there)).

Since the buildings have been abandoned, or at least uninhabited, for nearly a decade, I didn't want to chance upon squatters or meth-heads or crazy people all by myself. My husband was a willing participant in my quest for photographs, as was another friend who looks kinda tough and can do some damage to the bad guys (in reality he's a really nice guy that I just like spending time with). Safety in numbers, right?

So we sent off on our quest to the farm's secret location. We arrived after a little traffic delay in a nearby town. The sun was out and shining bright, the non-grassy-but-overgrown yard mowed not too long ago was baking and offering a gentle summery smell.  We parked near the road (obvious to let our relative see we were there) and walked around the place a bit to let our presence be known.  If anyone was inside, we thought best to give them a clean getaway.  Everything seemed pretty opened up, as if we were definitely not the first to explore the buildings.

First, the barn.  The door was missing, so it wasn't exactly hard to get inside.  We were surprised to see very little weathering of the inside structure.  The concrete floor cracked long ago, even before Grandpa passed away, so I wasn't surprised to see things growing up in the cracks.  A workbench left at the back of the barn held a few items, perhaps a water jug and some other barn things.  Dad's old football was still there.  The loft held an old bed frame and not much else from what we could see on the ground.

A short distance away was the guffy house.  I don't know why it was called a "guffy" house, but it was a sort of storage building for household goods.  Grandma kept her washing machine--the kind with crank rollers--out there, and she had shelves and shelves of antique stuff, not antique to her but useful and necessary stuff.  All that remained was a small bookcase of no value, an old clothesline with clothespins still attached, and an art deco wall sconce the likes of which I've never seen (or perhaps just don't remember).  Again, the building was structurally sound for the most part.

Next, we ventured carefully inside the house.  The old farmhouse was closed up tight, but the door was unlocked.  All of the windows are intact, shades carefully drawn, curtains still hanging.  Of course, there is no electricity, and the wiring was stripped by thieves looooong ago, but the house was just as I remembered it architecturally.  Upon entering, we were greeted by the most incredible peeling paint.  It looked almost like yellow fur on the ceiling.  The small bedroom where Dad grew up was empty save for a pipe covered in stickers, some beautifully delicate lace curtains covering a window that looked out on bushes taller than the house, and a set of saloon doors.  Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom was, likewise, untouched by vandals.  The wire hangers were still hanging on the short closet rod, stuck in position by acres of cobwebs.  The kitchen and dining room were grimy with dust, but the wash basin still had one of Grandma's old wash rags and a hand soap dispenser ready to go.  The floor has been littered making footing somewhat treacherous, but the multicolored flooring shows through in a few places.  And there were still sewing pins stuck in the window sashes, an empty cork board by the door, and a phone jack with emergency numbers stuck to it.  I noticed Grandma's old cutting board and some unused Kerr canning lids in a drawer--one that hadn't been pulled from the cabinets and tossed on the floor.  Sadly, the front room has seen the most vandalism and weather/age damage.  The ceiling tiles are falling in one by one on the once-green carpet.  An old orange couch leans upended where the rockers used to be.  Trash is thrown about.  A blue stripe of paint runs up one side of the wall where an old furnace once stood.  It's eerie and quiet and an odd calm that comes with familiarity all at once.

We took our leave of the house and closed it up just as we found it.  We walked around to get a better view of the bee house, largely overcome by blackberry bushes.  After picking our way past the hive on the back side, we nudged the door a bit.  When it didn't give easily, we didn't force the issue.  No sense finding ourselves swarmed by bees or crazy people or who knows what.

We left without many words, taking note of the maple tree in the front yard far too large for its own good.  A quick wave to our relative who was out in his yard as we drove by, and then we were back on the road home.  I can't quite describe the emotion of being there, seeing what was once a happy place for me turning into a ruin.  I'm not sad or happy or gloomy or satisfied or anything like that.  I feel some of those things, but there's more and less at the same time.  Perhaps a really deep "oh" and surface "ho-hum" together.


I'll be posting pictures and memories throughout the week.  Perhaps by then I'll have sorted out my odd feelings of it all.

1 comment:

Kristin Catts said...

I totally understand that weird mix of emotions. The house I grew up in is an old farm house that is now probably 130ish years old, it belonged to my great grandma before we lived there. I've gone back a few times since we moved out when I was 9 and it's strange. It isn't vandalized (yet - though the front door is unlocked) but it's old and falling apart with bits and pieces left behind here and there. There is a cellar where my mom used to store her canning which has old jars in it and an old room which used to be my grandpa's work room that is old and falling apart and an attic that i used as my secret hide-away that is covered in cobwebs and old toys I left up there. It's definitely odd going back and seeing it slowly rot away.