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Old Shack

Have you ever driven past a place like this and wondered about the stories the walls would tell – if walls could talk?

I have been fascinated by this particular house since the very first day I saw it. I can’t really explain it. I have driven past it hundreds of times and rarely have I failed to wonder what the walls would say, if only they could.

I wonder if the house is as old as it looks beneath that faux brick exterior. I wonder about the family, or perhaps families, who lived here. I wonder if they were happy, before the effects of decline, or maybe even progress, overwhelmed them. I wonder what kind of life they lived on a street named Slaughter Road.

True to the nature of someone like me, my imagination has created all kinds of scenarios for the occupants of this little house. I wonder how closely they compare to the reality.

I imagine the little house, before its current state of disrepair, with frilly white curtains in the windows, and those green metal rocking chairs on the porch that didn’t really rock, they just sort of bounced up and down when you shifted your weight. The family had a couple of old hound dogs who would spend part of their day lounging on the porch, and then when it was really hot, they would retreat to the cool damp space just under the corner of the step.

And they had chickens. These days we call them free-range chickens, but back then they were just chickens. Big chickens and little chickens, red ones and white ones and brown ones. And a cocky black rooster with velvety red and orange tail feathers, and a comb that sort of drooped over one eye. But, then the road came, and we know what happens when a chicken tries to cross a busy road…

After a while the last of the residents decided to move on and try to make a better life elsewhere. Or, maybe the last member of the family stayed until the very end. A widow who raised six children all alone after her husband died in the war. The children grew up and moved away, hoping to get as far away as possible from the struggles of growing up poor in a small town. She wasn’t sad in the end. Not really. She was happy to know that she had done the best she could to nurture them and send them out into the world as prepared as they could be to “make it”. A couple of them had tried to get her to leave the little shack and move in with their growing families. She had declined. She was a woman with fierce pride and independence, and a determination to live out her days in the home her husband, the love of her life, had built with his own two hands. The home they moved into on their wedding day. No, she wouldn’t leave. She couldn’t leave.

In the end, the children decided to keep the little homestead in the family as a tribute to the struggles and sacrifices their parents endured. The time between visits back home to check on the property grew longer and longer, and eventually, turned into now and then.

The walls of the house started to whisper, but only the critters could hear, and the vegetation. Eventually, the vegetation took pity on the old house and slowly engulfed it in a snug embrace. An embrace that keeps the walls standing, so they can continue to whisper the stories that I wish I could hear. The real stories, not this figment of my imagination.

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