The lane curved back a half mile from the main road and was lined with short stories and the kind of bushy blue pines that blot out anything beyond them. The previous owners, wanting their privacy, had planted the trees along the property line as well as at the end of the gravely road. That day the real estate agent was positively beaming; my parents had not been easy customers. As a matter of fact, they had spent months looking for a house away from the road with an outbuilding. They also wanted a creek and some woods so my brother and I could play; they had harried her for months. For her, this property wasn’t even gold; it was diamonds.
It was thirty acres of land. Bordered on the far right by train tracks paralleled by a large creek and narrowing to a diamond with the widest part at the front and the sides slowly closing in to a point far back in the woods (that’s where you’ll hear the short story : “Flashback“). A smaller creek cut across the land, bisecting civilization from the woods. Around the house, ten acres gleamed like a golf course with gardens, a gazebo, and a bird sanctuary.
There were three outbuildings. Looking back from the house, they were, from left to right: a sizable shed, maybe thirty by ninety feet; a very large pole barn in the middle big enough to store multiple pieces of farm equipment; and a workshop where the current seller was rehabbing a 1967 Chevy Camaro. I would have given my soul for it. We eventually turned half of it in to a horse stall in the story “Pick-Me-Up.”
The house was a three-bedroom with an office, though half of the downstairs was configured in an open floor plan that joined the kitchen, dining room, and living room together, making it appear much larger. The master suite was down a hall on the same floor next to the office and a guest bathroom. The upstairs was divided into thirds with a large central room dominated by an oversized dormer window and a bathroom to the rear. The two remaining bedrooms came off the central room. With Each taking up another third of the floor and ornamented with smaller dormers. If this property hadn’t satisfied us, I think the agent would have dropped us as clients. But we all fell in love with it, except for my six year old brother who stubbornly maintained that it “sucked.”
The owners were selling this Garden of Eden because Navstar laid off the husband. Meanwhile the wife seemed to work at keeping the house and land up. He refused to get a lower paying job or one with lower seniority for months. They had no choice but to put the house on the market. Even though I was only ten at the time, I had mixed feelings about their plight. That land was my dream playground, but I didn’t like the idea of taking something that someone else loved.
On a bright summer day perfect for playing, right before the final signing of the papers, the owner offered us ten thousand dollars cash to just walk away. Though my father refused, my stomach turned; even I could see their desperation. I would think back to that day sometimes. But I was always overwhelmed by the smell of the dirt and the grass and the leaves and the wind.