The Oldest House
If “the oldest house” “on the island”… is the only house on that island… being “the oldest house” makes no sense. If “the oldest house on the island” is one of four buildings on that island… that creates a “possible” for it to be… an “oldest” “house”. IF… this “the oldest house” on this “on the island” turns out to… not be… on an island but be on a “once was an island” that …to this “the oldest house on the island” …a great amount of stone was hauled “from the shore” in the last quarter of the nineteenth century to fabricate a permanent roadway that created a peninsula from that island… and THEN “a (second) house” “was built” on this peninsula leaving the original “oldest house on the island” to be, correctly, the oldest house on the peninsula with “two older buildings” AND the “new house”. In the final oral tradition, the new roadway and the new house DOES leave “the oldest house” “on the island”… to “be that” “originally”.
“They say”. In “1732” when this oldest house “was built”… they made a large brick chimney from handmade brick made on shore and carried to the island by boat. After building the forty-eight inch square chimney… with three fireplaces… they surrounded that with a small square (“Cape”) “house”. The frame and rafters of the house were made from white pine trees cut down on the island. The rest of the “wood” found “on”, “in” and “of” the house “came from shore”. The nails, iron hardware and glass windows “came from Boston by boat”. “They say”.
None of this matters anymore. By the time I …was released by the owners of the “island” from our ‘all business’ conversation “at” the “new house” to “look in” the three other buildings… to “see” if I “will buy” the contents of these buildings and “remove it promptly”… the “dreadful fate” of these three buildings… including “the oldest house” was a “done deal”. The original “new house”, when I arrived, was in the final stretch of a full “to the shell” “renovation”, “modernization”, “opening up”, “expansion” and “raising”. I could see this and did not say a word. I did understand that “fresh water” “was still a problem” meaning to me that if one has a giant new house on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean “getting” “fresh water” “is a problem”. The three buildings “are all unlocked”.
I toured a rotting fishing shed by “the old dock” that was “being replaced” by a “NEW DOCK” next to it. This shed was full of “old stuff”. I next toured “the barn” that “went with the oldest house” but “is not the original barn”. “We don’t know what happened to THAT barn”. I found out once inside this barn: It was a 19th century post and beam frame that had all sorts of “old wood” used “all over” that “must have come from another building” like “the original barn”. I did not say anything about this. This barn was “full of stuff” “pretty much”. Finally I toured “the oldest house”. It was very, very, very old. To say that it “was built in 1732” …was “fair”.
I walked slowly through the whole first floor and that means I walked through an interior circle of little rooms surrounding the large chimney. Back before the front door I opened the door to the stairs to ‘the chamber” and climbed into the open unfinished space where I had to crouch, duck and bend over to …move around the chimney with its small chamber fireplace so I could “look at” “all” “the stuff”. The first floor was very sparsely furnished; a “mostly empty”. The chamber was not “packed” but… was “full” of “old stuff”. Walking back up to the unfinished new “new house”, I figured out an “it is mostly junk but some stuff is ok” offer of “six hundred dollars” and “we will have it all cleaned out by tomorrow afternoon if we can start “today” (this afternoon after lunch).
They didn’t say anything about my offer except to clarify that we would “start today” and “be done tomorrow?”
“May we have a receipt for this?” one of the brothers asked.
“I believe” I said “that it is you who gives a receipt to me”.
“Yes. I am buying the stuff from you”.
I gave them a check for six hundred dollars. It I memo noted as “contents / 3 buildings”. They did not give me a receipt. The one brother looked my check over very carefully but said nothing. Then no one said anything more so I said “I will be back with my team in two hours”. And left.
We came back in under two hours and worked for five hours packing up everything in the three buildings. We brought two truck loads of empty cardboard boxes and used almost all of them. Everyone was working hard, getting dirty with “old stuff dirt”, having a good time “finding things” and packing those finds and all else away in the stacked up and very plain looking cardboard boxes. Some things would not fit in the boxes so were set out separately. Some things were set out separately because “somebody” “wants that”. That always happens during the clean outs. A lot of times the “somebody” “doesn’t want it” when they “have to pay for it” “later”. That always happens too.
I did not work in the barn. I worked in “the oldest house” chamber. And “the oldest house cellar. And the first floor of “the oldest house”. I didn’t have to do much on the first floor. I also worked in the old rotten shed down by the …old rotten dock. The “people” of the property “had left” as they had said they would. Only the carpenters, painters, plumbers and electricians were there working on the new “new house”. After a while two of them went down to the barn and talked with the crew working in there. They “liked antiques” and wanted to know if we “found anything good”. “The buildings are always locked” they said. We had to “please lock the buildings when you leave”. That was fine by me for I am always worried about “people” “taking stuff” “during a clean out”. By putting everything as much as possible in the very plain cardboard boxes and stacking those up inside the buildings (except the shed boxes that we “move those up to the barn”… it makes “it hard to see” “what we found”.
I worked in the house chamber because that was where the oldest and best “stuff” “would be”. I figured. I knew that no one would have been in the cellar so that was “good too”. The shed was good too; full but “nothing great”. The barn had a lot in it but most of it was late 19th and first half 20th century “stuff” from the “new house” that had been either moved “long ago” out of that house or moved out by the property owners to “clean out” that house “before we begin work”. This last “stuff” was piled on top of the earlier moved “stuff” on the first floor of the barn. It included “the stuff” “they found” “in the attic” of the “new house”. The second floor of the barn had “stuff” from that “new house” moved to the barn the longest time ago. And old hay. Although the barn “stuff” was “good”, it didn’t interest me the way “the oldest house” colonial era chamber did. So I didn’t do much in the barn except look at the stacked boxes and the “good stuff” set aside and say things like “WE’RE MAKING PROGRESS!” and “GOOD JOB!”. And the obligatory “Ok… you can have that”.
A little after five we were pretty much done. By then the work crews at the new “new house” had left. It was “a long drive” “up” from “the island” to “Route One” (the main coastal Maine “road”… so “they always stop-off early” they said. “Good.” I said to myself.
I looked over the empty shed, the stacks of boxes in “the oldest house” and the large tier of stacked boxes in the barn. I locked the house and the barn. The shed had no lock. I walked out on the old dock. “It’s actually in pretty good shape.” I said when asked by one of the team who saw me. Then we briefly rehashed that “the oldest house” and the barn “have been sold to someone who is going to take them down and move them”. “That means sell them” I said. No one argued the point. I didn’t care. I can’t. This kind of “dreadful fate” happens all the time. A little colonial cape like this one often ends up “fully renovated” and “attached” to a larger modern house in …the mid-west. With the 1732 date, that “full renovated” “colonial cape” might as well have been moved to the moon. “Are they going to take the chimney too?” one of the team asked.
“I don’t know.” I said.
They didn’t. The last time I was down there I could still see it “from the road”. Even the property owners “can’t deal with it”. And the cellar hole. You can see the new dock too but the old dock and the shed are “gone”.
The next morning we; the team in their pickup trucks and I in mine, all “showed up” “at seven”. The last bit of the drive down there we were all clustered together on the road with some of the new “new house” workers. Pretty much everyone “started at seven” “down there” I gathered. We loaded three trucks with the boxes fast and they “took off” for the warehouse. A few of us stayed behind. I “checked out things” and “poked around”. I went in the chamber again. I went in the cellar again. I walked the first floor. I went to the shed. “Nothing; job done” was the result. “Something” “though” “is bothering me”.
“Something” “is” “not right”. (?). “Something… I can just FEEL IT.” So I went back up to the barn and the tier of boxes and. Well… we’d only started down that so that was “THE” second load “at least” with, probably, a “mop up” “go over it all again” load at the end “with just a few of us”; “you don’t need to comeback after you unload thanks”. I looked up into the whole of the empty barn. “Old hay up there.”
“Check it”. I did. Nothing but hay dust. I stood at the front again looking out the front up to the new “new house” with the workmen… outside by their trucks …working with their coffees. “It (the barn) does block the (ocean) view from that house” I said. I turned around and stared down into the barn. To my left; the “my left” side of the barn… was the “south side” so …as is usual… the animal stalls run down that side because it is “warm” “in winter”. There were four stalls down this side with a head door closing off these stalls to “even more” “keep in the heat”. There were four stalls; first two identical “the horses” stalls, then a smaller “milk cow” stall. Then, at the end, a larger “anything else” animal (sheep, goat, beef critter), et al… stall. I’d walked those? I didn’t actually “clean them”. I said to myself. “Well… check ‘em”.
I went down to the end stall and… it had some hay on the floor. The milk cow stall had her hitch chain bolted in it and… it would cost as much as I’d get for the chain ($2.00) to “get it out of there” so “leave it”. First horse stall; nothing. Front horse stall nothing. “WAIT A MINUTE” as my eyes looking into the dark stall with the big door opening out to me CAUGHT in the shadowed darkness JUST INSIDE to the right of the door a… “small table?” AS my same eyes see “THE LEG” and my left arm pivots and reaches as I step into the stall an lift… the table out… into the light of the stall corridor and… set it “OH MY” down and bend over its top corner to see down upon the “old inlay” top carrying to the molded skirt following to “THE LEG” that curves PRECIOUSLY to a “Dutch FOOT OH MY IT’S REAL”. Seeing “one toe chipped old dark finish inlay missing perfect otherwise THE SMALL SIZE” I… “it’s real”; a real 18th century Boston area tea table “1760” “easy” “probably older”. I lift it with my left hand at the leg corner and then slide this left hand to the center of the end skirt and …walk out into the daylight before the barn and I
Do not stop walking but, lightly carrying the table, go directly to my truck cab passenger’s side, open the door, slid the table in easily and say “I’ll look at YOU later”. I close the door and go back up to the front of the barn. No one says anything to me or appears to have noticed I doing anything. The trucks comeback for the second load a few minutes later. I’m a little dizzy (light headed) during that loading. “Must have come up on a boat from Boston” I say to myself as I look off from the barn to “the oldest house on the island” and its old dock …reaching out into the sea beyond.