07 June 2010

Haunted by Houses

It has been a bad day. It is drizzling and raining. The cat has been continually barfing. The dog has been in the cat box. And we have been dealing with insurance. Blech.
Additionally, our house in Fargo still has not sold. I am headed there tomorrow to deal with the dandelion problem, air the place out, and re-stage some rooms. Apparently people can't picture a bedroom as an office and cannot imagine life wherein guests have to walk through a bedroom to get to a bathroom. I hate homebuyers. They are picky and stupid.
I just want the house to sell. I am emotionally removed from it--from our "old" life in Fargo (except for our friends who we miss dearly). We are ready to move forward with our plans. The house is clean, staged, updated, priced well. Complaints include the size of the kitchen--well we can do nothing about that. We have done all we can do.............and we wait. And we pray. And we ask other people to pray. And we call our realtor for news. And nothing. Not a word. Nothing has happened. Nothing seems to be happening. It's completely disheartening.
So, we wait in our temporary home (ironically the house I grew up in that I could swear was haunted) in the hopes that we can still afford to buy our dream home--which we can literally see from our yard at the temporary home. Haunted by the future.
In the meantime, Billy and I have been doing a lot of exploring in the country. I love exploring--going on adventures. I have been rebuked by my brother that I should at least let someone know where I am going when I go out to drive on low maintenance roads or break in to abandoned houses so that they will have some idea of which well I may have fallen into when I don't show up at night. My solution now is to drag Billy along.
There are all of these amazing old houses that dot the countryside here and there. Some of them are amazing because of their architecture. Others because of their location. Still others because of their sheer smallness and rude construction techniques. But they all HAUNT me.
To live in this land--on the open prairie where the wind blows and blows and the winters are deadly icy--this takes tenacity. It takes will power. It takes everything a person has to give. The people who homesteaded each of these quarters were required to erect a structure of some kind. Many of them build sod huts or even dugouts into the sides of hills. Others built stick-built homes. Some people even took the time to add character and beauty to their homesteads. Some homes have gables, mouldings, embellishments. Other homes look like they were "newer"--maybe constructed as the "real" house once the homestead was established--and those are the ones that are really pretty.
Except that, somewhere along the line, the property owners either would not or could not take care of these homes anymore. Maybe the property was tied up in probate. Maybe the owners moved to a more "modern" ranch home in the 1950's and left the old farmhouse to rot. Maybe in the drought years of the 80's, the owners simply couldn't afford the property and abandoned it.
But these houses--many of them still furnished stand empty of people--eyes looking out to the land. They look lonely. They look like they were once beautiful ladies who aged and were no longer considered worthwhile. Skunks and deer and racoons go through the broken windows and make nests in old bedding, mattresses and magazines. Food still sits in jars and cans in the kitchens and in the basements. One house I know of even had an old pump organ that was left to the elements where it disintegrated to nothing.
I hate it. I am a person who values old things. I love the idea of and also the act of restoration of anything--including a home. But these homes are, even for my optimistic eye, beyond hope. Maybe that is why they haunt me--they were once beautiful but now lack any future except to fall into the ground.
Obviously the houses themselves don't know this. But I wonder about the people who owned them--whose blood, sweat and tears built them from the ground up--probably of their own design. What happened that they had to leave the houses--and why did they not pass them on or sell them to someone who could use them.
The extreme irony of it all is that now many young couples are moving back to the area, and there is a housing shortage. Nowhere decent to live. If only this trend could have happened 40 years ago when these houses could still have been salvaged.
So I have been ruminating on these houses for about a week, and then my mom showed me a very cool website about ghost towns in North Dakota.
I believe I will help them increase their archives with a few more pictures of some old places I know.


Blogger Abbamart Professional Beauty Supply said...

Oh I could have written this post. I feel the same way - abandoned houses enchant me, and I wonder all the same things. I think about who left them and why (especially when belongings are left behind), and what life they saw within their walls when they were shiny and new and were the mainstay of someone's life. Who still might have young, faint childhood memories of them, and where are they? I love them.

9:21 PM  

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