Saturday, September 10, 2005

Part IV: The Land That Time Forgot...And Not

On this visit to the land of a significant part of my youthful past, I found change to be anywhere from miniscule, to sadly complete and total. Let's start with the homes, of which there were four (we moved a lot in my youth):

#1: there were no visual surprises at the first house I knew as home in Waterloo, in 1964: a small three bedroom two-level on Wisner Drive. Except for the tree in the yard (little more than a sapling when I lived there, and now a 30' plus shade tree), there was little change to the exterior of the house I first called home. So went things for the neighborhood overall: except for trees bigger than I remembered them, it looked as I remembered it.

I almost expected to see me walking out the door to go to school, except that (a) for the time of day, I should have already been there and (b) I would have had a 'Ground Hog Day' moment, if it had been me. I'd really hate to have to turn me in for truancy, let alone explain it to some educrat who has the imagination of a door knob, but I digress.

#2: the first farm we lived at. It was located just south of town, and of the old Highway 412, at the top of the hill on the east side of Hammond Avenue, an almost two lane gravel road. The house was immense: a full basement with a total of six rooms; the main floor consisted of a kitchen, pantry, dining room, office, living room, sewing room, bathroom, and two stair cases to the second floor (one with a bannister, one winding); the second floor consisted of five large bed rooms, a bathroom, and a stair case to the attic; the attic had four useable rooms, though it got rather warm up there in the summer. The yard was sizeable, and had large pine trees (over 60' tall) bordering both sides of the driveway; the main yard had a couple climbable maple trees, a large weeping willow tree, a walnut tree, and more pine trees, as well as tall poles with bird houses atop two of them (one of which my one sister had crowned me with when I was 8, but I digress).

The rest of the farm buildings were (from east of the house to around to N of the house): a two car garage; a utility shed/chicken coop; a storage shed (which, at the time, contained the landlord's amphibious car); a huge grainery; a barn for livestock; another utility building; four heavy gauge grain bins; another livestock barn; behind it, yet another livestock barn; to the north of it, a corral for horses; in the back of it, a storage shed; and to the north of that, the pasture. North of the house and on the west side of the corral, an old garage converted to a chicken coop; and a small orchard, with trees bearing apples, cherries, mulberries, and plums. Between the house, buildings and corral, was a large open area, with the makings of a road toward either the corral or past the grainery building and into the fields beyond. And straight east and to the south of the outbuildings and house, over 400 acres of farm land.

It was a wonderful place to grow up between 1965 and 1969.

When I was last back to visit, around 1991, all of the farm outbuildings had been levelled. But the house, the first garage, the trees, the yard and the orchard remained.

In was all gone, save for three of those immense pine trees, which now served as ornaments for what was there: a large retirement community development, consisting of a series of ranch-style single level homes (see picture above). At the far back of the development (into what would have been part of the farming field), was a high-rise retirement building.

Change is inevitable, even in bucolic Iowa. But I must admit that it saddened me, knowing that all I now had of the old farm were my memories of it, along with a couple pictures of the old house from the 1991 visit.

#3: this large farm house had been converted by the owner into three apartments, two upstairs, and the main floor back in our time (we occupied the main floor, and two couples occupied the upper apartments). Along with another sizeable basement, and a full covered front porch, it was yet another magnificent farmhouse of the kind one saw all over the Iowan rural landscape in those days. The house had changed little; and it was still set up as three apartments (as evidenced by the trio of mailboxes out front). The farm itself had changed some: two of the older, worn outbuildings were gone, replaced with three new grain storage buildings, and an even larger conveyor/elevator structure to transport the grain into them. One barn -- one we'd used to house my sister's horse -- remained, but had been resurfaced with some metallic sheeting on the outer walls.

And the current resident(s) had put a great deal of time into gardening and landscaping the west and north sides of the property.

The farmland around the property was as it had been: full of corn and soybeans, nearing harvest time.

The old pond across the street -- a private club pond, with bass and pan fish abundant therein, and one I fished at often -- remained, though somewhat shrunken from the size I remembered. The old club building had been completely rebuilt, and was quite impressive.

So was the large mouth bass -- I estimated it at 5 lbs or better -- that chose a moment I stood by the water's edge, to meander slowly by, and sticking its tongue out at me in a defiant, knowing taunt.

Bastur...danged fool fish.

#4: the last farm house hadn't really been a 'farm' house when we lived there: it had no agricultural property attached to the house and garage. And it had changed somewhat as well: the large, open-aired-but-covered front porch had been enclosed; a bungalow had been added on to the westside of the house; the garage had been renovated. And the old climbing tree -- the one I used to climb into while taunting one of our dogs, and the one I blew a squirrel out of with my shotgun early one morning, waking up the whole house, had grown up enough to have the house side of the tree pruned back. Otherwise, it was an even more effective shade tree for the yard than it had been in 1970-71.

But for a couple of new houses built immediately to the west and north of the property, the overall view from the property roundabouts was absolutely no different than I had viewed from the spring of '70 to November of 1971.

And then there was the other school I wished to visit. The one I attended for one year, as a second grader: Kittrell Elementary. It wasn't so much that I had fond memories of the school itself; I just had to return, 41 years after the fact, to the scene of my first brush with cooties and chivalry, and having learned my first lesson about the occasional fickleness and lack of appreciation by the female of the species (recounted in another part of this blog) .

I was amazed that the school itself was, like Orange, unchanged from 1964; the gentle downhill grade from the parking lot to the playground was, as well, as it had been back then. All that was missing were those musical, demonic monkey bars (torn down and removed a year before my visit, as a safety hazard I was told), and the stupid, unappreciative little girl who spurred me to my reckless moment of chivalry. And at a time I had no idea the word existed, let alone knew what the horsefeathers it meant.

She didn't thank me then; bet she wouldn't thank me today, either.

Finally, I visited our old family church in town. Immanuel Presbyterian, with a few cosmetic changes, looked largely as it had in the period of 1964-71, when we attended there. The old parish house -- formerly occupied by the pastor and his family -- had been sold off sometime after we left, so I was unable to revisit that basement where, on the eve of my move to Colorado, I had played 'spin the bottle' at the behest of the minister's son, with four of his girlfriends. I don't mind saying those four young ladies taught this lad how to kiss; and one in particular seemed to enjoy my rapidly-gained prowess. Her I shoulda married.

But at the age of 14, there probably would have been issues. Let alone, how I'd of 'splained it all to Ma.

Later that day, I would get together with friends I hadn't seen in 15 years, getting caught up on the intervening time.

On balance, it was a good day.

I saved the next day for the more solemn part of the trip. More on that in Part VII.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10 September, 2005 21:05  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

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11 September, 2005 07:28  
Blogger FTS said...

Comment spam. Doncha just love how they fail miserably at disguising it.

I have finished reading your last few posts and enjoying them -- especially where your car keys jumped out of your hand and into the garbage. Could have been worse, though.

But we won't go there. ;)

11 September, 2005 13:39  

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