starting with a shed

old rickety fence, more of a swayed-back grape arbor than fence by anything other than kindness.  grape vine about the same age.  not much harvest here, except behind in shadows where spiders called it home.  but familiar all the same and kids fit where big folks don’t.  same face shed but inside, a mystery.

broken except for this one moment now.

what you don’t see here.

back end of the yard, a huge walnut tree.  black walnut trunk for size and strength then grafted on english walnut limbs for better harvest nuts.  come near and we’d give you a bag to take home with you.  very acidic leaves however so nothing much else grew underneath the wide spreading limbs.  oh yea, except for a 50 gallon metal trash can used in those days to burn so much of the trash that would burn.  anything.  every yard had their own.  often that was Sunday morning neighborhood, smelling smoke.

fences were more about being polite than anything else.

east side the mostly shaded yard for the large old style raised farm house, almost Victorian.  originally two stairs to two entry doors, one now removed.  a mud room.  what mud?  to the right the designated parlor for visiting guests.  nobody cared about that formality any more.  straight ahead the actual family living room.  huge heavy wooden sliding doors that could open the two into one.  never used although I thought they were a wondrous thing not like anything else I knew.  high ceilings, cold in the winter all the good heat being another seven feet above our heads.  a large wooden floor footed radio with a lighted green dial.  exotic before there was television.

yea, and for years no one ever locked their front door.  no matter what.  till the day when someone said, there’s strangers in town.

mom and me shared the parlor as bedroom and grandmother Janet and great uncle Louis each had their own rooms.  big kitchen stove and a can of used and reused lard in the refrigerator – for about everything.  old English farm family weren’t so much on cooking except to make sure everything was well dead before eating.  took me years before I could eat liver again.

out back a tool and storage shed for uncle Lou and a small mostly vacant room where my young uncle Robert would stay when in town.  he left one day amid whispers not for childhood ears and never came back.  cancer maybe.  kind of a shameful thing in those days I think.  not something to talk about.

then mother and me moved next door into a smaller house beside that watercolor shed.  the timbers sat right on the dirt.  termites thought that a great welcome mat.  some nights mother possum would scratch at the floor boards under my room.  small room, enough that I could in one step reach the dresser, turn the alarm clock off and back to bed without hardly waking up.  then the Beatles on TV.

no indoor bathroom when our smaller house was built.  added on but insulation, none.  undressed, into the shower and out, five minutes flat in the winter time.

that was home for more years than not.

and why this here?   just because.   good enough?
watercolor by my uncle Robert Coates.   maker of paintings, oils and watercolors, carver of wood, figurines and miniatures, ceramics too, modern abstract and conventional.   a man who left this life much too soon.   now just these relics I know him by.

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