2017-10-04 / Editorials

Don Lively


(Please enjoy this reprint from 2012)

It's where we lived, once upon a time.

Oddly, sometimes one of us still slips and refers to it as the “new house“ even though it’s been well over a half century since Daddy and Uncle K.O. and a few others built it stick by stick.

It long ago ceased being new.

But, because it was built slowly and methodically, while we were still living in the “old house“, otherwise known as the Jim Miller place, for many years that’s what we called it.

The new house.

We’ve talked here about the Miller place with its tin roof and clapboard walls and tack-to-the-wall wallpaper and, of course, the ghost of Mister Jim.

When I was twelve years old we moved less than a quarter mile to the new house. Basically, from two hundred yards upwind from the pig parlor to two hundred yards downwind. I doubt Daddy figured those odious fragrances into the equation when he picked the house spot.

The new house was much different from the old one. It was built of concrete blocks, mortar and tar shingles instead of weatherworn heart pine, twenty penny nails and tin. It sat on a slab instead of sitting up on brick pillars. Daddy built Mama a carport on the new house so she could pull in out of the rain to unload the weekly supply from the Piggly Wiggly.

But one thing wasn’t so different. The new house had the exact same number of bedrooms. One big one for Mama and Daddy. One big one for SherryLu. And the smallest one for the three of us boys who took up the most space. Never quite understood that. I sometimes believed that Daddy thought of us as farmhands so our room was more like a bunkhouse than a bedroom. For him, privacy for his sons was also not a priority.

Neither were curtains.

There wasn’t one on the bathroom window that I shared with my three sibs and since the windows were at ground level the simple hope of taking a bath unobserved could sometimes be unachievable. One day I looked up to see my cousin Eddie sitting on his horse, Taffy, both gawking into the window, only one of them horse-laughing. Taffy was unimpressed but Eddie thought it was hilarious. I might have thought so too if I’d been on the horse instead of in the tub naked as the day I was born trying to cover up with a threadbare washcloth.

My little brother Willie, around eight at the time of the move, didn’t like the new house from the get-go because he couldn’t play under the porches since there weren’t any porches.

It was true, there was no way to get under the house and that was fine with me. Cause it meant that other things couldn’t get under there either.

Like rattlesnakes.

Or copperheads.

Cobras, pythons or boa constrictors.

In the old house, whatever kind of snake my imaginative young mind could envision, I was sure were lurking just a few feet underneath my bedroom floor.

My totally rational hatred of snakes was just as real back then as it is now so I slept easier in the new house.

The move to the new house did put us closer to Mr. Scott’s Store which for me meant quicker access to honey buns, Stage Planks and a brand new drink called Mountain Dew.

We could actually climb onto the roof of the new house which for a stargazer like me, is a bonus. Daddy raised a perfunctory objection to us being on the roof but he didn’t really seem to mind. I’d have never tried to get on the roof of the old house. Too steep and too slippery.

In the new house the bathroom was a few feet down the hall instead of fifty yards down a path.

There were other advantages.

We had a telephone for the first time.

Wind couldn’t find its way through cracks in the walls.

Flush toilets.

And for the first time I had my own bed, albeit wedged into a small space with two others identical to it.

So, after some initial trepidation, I learned to love the new house.

The old house is just a memory, not a scrap of it left.

But the “ new house “, the one that Daddy built just for us, is still standing and probably will be till Armageddon.

We lived there once upon a time.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of two books of Southern Humor, Howlin' At The Dixie Moon, and South O' Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

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