There is an abandoned house I walk past every morning when I force myself out to walk or run. Yeah, I’m trying to jog a bit these days. Slow and easy…slow and not so easy. Try not to have a second heart attack or pull a muscle.
At a curve of the road below what has become my ‘hill from hell’, an old home sits forlornly surrounded by broom straw, English ivy, hemlock, and juvenal river birch. It has sat empty for the past thirty years. I vaguely remember people living there a long time ago. They were solitary people who looked at you side-eyed when you drove by. They were here today gone tomorrow folks it seems.
I stood, stretching after a five-minute warm-up. Trying to steel myself for the quarter-mile trek up the hill, I paused and took a picture as I paused.
Have I said that I like old structures? I like wandering through them looking at how they were built. I like wondering about who lived there. I hate to see old houses abandoned into ruin.
Once, a lifetime ago, I dared to investigate. I’m not built for creeping or sneaking a look through windows. Sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me. Don’t fear, I’m not a Peeping Tom. I knew the place was empty. I just wondered why they had left in such a hurry. Looking through windows gave me no clue, only more questions.
Much of the furniture was still in place as if the people who lived there just went off to work or out for dinner, locked the door behind them, and never came back. A plush easy chair and matching settee but no TV. No lightened spaces on the walls where paintings or pictures might have hung. I wonder why furniture and kitchen implements were left behind? Why did the previous tenants skedaddle leaving so much behind?
There had been people there recently. A stack of pyramided beer cans attested to their visitation. Uninvited visitors disturbing the mice, taking advantage of an empty house. Young people looking for a place to hang out but twenty or thirty years later it’s not a place I would want to spend any kind of “quality” time.
As I took the picture I saw only remnants of Venetian blinds and shredded curtains hanging in the windows. Windowpanes have been knocked out and I imagine the furniture is covered in black mold or worse. Still, I wonder…but not enough to go check. It is a shame and a bit heartbreaking.
The house sits in a steep-sided ‘holler’ split by the road I walk. It is at the base of ‘The Hill From Hell.’ I’ve officially named it. It rises two hundred feet over two-tenths of a mile. There was a time when I ran it…that time has run out.
A rocky, shallow stream runs under the road and in front of the house with juvenal river birch taking over between the stream and porch. Despite its shallowness, the stream runs quite fast. I wonder why the original owners decided to put their home in a hole that gets very little sunlight. Access to the water I wonder?
The original house was a sturdy, shed-roofed affair with a narrow screened in front porch. What appears to be a rebuilt chimney dominates one side. It looks too new…despite having been there for at least thirty years. I wonder what the original chimney looked like. Was it rock like mine, made from stones found in the area? Was it added as an afterthought during summer after a long, cold winter?
A low and long addition was built on the opposite side. It matches the original building like a scary horror movie and has not held up well to being left empty. Loneliness destroys us all.
The screens on the porch are shredded and the tar paper and asphalt shingles have not held up as well as the metal sheets on the original. The roof reminds me of an old swayback plow horse.
I wonder how many generations lived there, how they survived, what they did for a living. What were their dreams? I wonder how they lived and loved, what they ate, what games they played. Were their lives as hard as my imagination leads me to believe.
Spring is three weeks away and the daffodils are showing themselves near the ditch that separates the house site from the road. They have pushed up through a stand of blue-purple blossomed periwinkle.
Soon they will be spent and replaced by moon vine in mid-summer and the sickly, sweet smell of blossoming kudzu in the fall. If enough sunlight can reach the yard, wildflowers will bloom in the late summer. I wonder if someone once tended to their flowers long, long ago.
Each summer kudzu above the old house creeps closer and closer. I wonder if it will eventually cover the old house or if someone will come along and knock the house down putting it out of its misery. Either way, it will disappear from sight…disappear from history leaving no trace of itself or the people who lived there. I wonder.
Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who writes on various subjects, in both fiction and non-fiction. Visit his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.
The image is of the lonesome old house taken with my phone.