Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns

Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Building a House the Hard Way Part 2

In Colgate Creek at St, Helena was a sailing ship’s graveyard. The rotted hulls are now under the Shipping terminal. Mr Pollard and his oldest son Charlie who was now old enough to work as a young teenager, went out onto those ships and removed planks and beams from them and carried them a shore in a row boat. The two of them loaded timbers and tongue and grove siding onto a push wagon and then hauled them by hand two miles to the building site. Huge beams were removed from under the decks to be used as framing for the house. Fred, a little later bought a car and often put a circle saw onto the back axle of the family model A Ford and he sawed them into usable sizes. No house was ever built out of better materials. The ships had been built of heart Georgia pine, cypress and oak. All the nails had to be removed and then straightened to be used again. The sheathing for the house was four inch wide tongue and groove cypress. The wood had paint on it one eighth of an inch thick. Before the lumber could be used the paint had to be scraped out of the tongue and groves. Mr Pollard made a metal scraper, nailed it to the frame of the house and pulled the wood through it to remove the hardened paint.

The family moved in the house with only sub floors and enough sheet rock walls installed for privacy. The house had four rooms a pot bellied stove and an outhouse. Living in saw dust was a way of life for them..

There was a shallow hand driven well.

This was the year I was born, 1934 the first of about 3 very bad winters. By the end of that year I had come down with Asthma and must have been a real worry for my parents. I saw the old Doctor Toland Whose office was in Edgemere. when I was about thirty years old and he said he remembered trudging up our road to see me with a couple of foot of snow on the ground. I thanked him, and he asked me if I was worth it. I told him, I, arguably, was. He chuckled and said “I’m glad I did it then”.

Charlie worked hard during his teenage years. And became an accomplished carpenter capable of doing fine finishing work as well as pure mule labor. He was very smart and carried excellent grades in school. They added two more rooms and a bathroom onto the house and Charlie began making cement blocks for basement walls. Dad bought two wooden block molds from Sears& Roebuck. My brother spent the summer mixing concrete with a hoe in a mortar box and pouring it into the molds he let them set a while and took the blocks out and stacked them to cure. It had to be back breaking work because while the blocks were hardening in the molds he went under the house to dig the basement with Ruby's brother, Talmage. They dug with pick and shovel and brought the dirt out in a wheelbarrow. My father worked evenings and weekends as well, but he was now working four days a week at his job. Somehow Fred managed to raise a garden every year and the summer diet was speckled butter beans on rice with Green fried tomatoes and all the corn on the cob you could eat. There was pork chops and chicken some meals but steak dinners was few and far between.

Fred liked to pick berries and across the Robinwood road in front of the house and on up across Otto Walters field was Kimmel's Mountain though it defiantly was not a mountain. At most it was 200 hundred feet high The whole family often went onto would go up the hill to pick berries. It was an all day trip and we were all expected to pick blackberries. Later in the after noon Ruby would take a bucket of berries, her boys and girls and head home. Fred usually stayed as long as he could see. By the time he got home there was a big summer dinner cooked and a blackberry cake. These three layer yellow cakes had the blackberries stirred in before baking. Some of the juice would migrate through the cake turning it purple and then the family ate it with milk on it like a pudding. As a matter of fact Ruby called them a blackberry pudding sometimes.

On Pollard's little acre were fruit trees, apples, pears, peaches and cherries. Good sized beds of blackberries and strawberries. were harvested A long arbor of sweet yellow grapes were turned into wine some years and sometimes mixed with a neighbors purple ones for a really good red wine.

When the hill was cut away and the trees gone off the top there was nothing to hold water and stop it from running off when it rained. The neighbors wells began drying up all over the area.

Otts Mc McClellan the Pollard's next door neighbor was building a house at the same time. Otts's father George was getting up in years and had little use for his old chain drive Ford Stake body truck. Otts and Fred more or less took turns working on it to keep it running. There was money coming in now from them having worked a longer week. With a truck they could buy used building materials in Baltimore and haul them to the houses. They could also afford new materials like finish flooring hand rails for stairways and appliances. At some point a gas stove and refrigerator showed up at the houses.

It finally happened the shallow well dried up, so Mr Pollard built a derrick at the back of the house Charlie climbed on top of it and began driving a pipe into the ground with a maul and then pulling it out with a block and tackle. Fred beat the dirt out of it with a hammer. They took turns at driving and hauling untill the well was sixty feet deep. One of the neighbors standing alongside the rig yelled up and asked in typical Balimereze “Hey Fred what’ll yous do if yous strikes a rock?” Without hesitation Fred replied, “I’ll move over six feet and start over.”

I have no doubt that he would have done just that.

Recently when I considered driving a well I was informed that you cannot drive a well more than 25 ft. I just looked at the man and smiled.

Fred and Ruby had water about five more years . Their well must have been in an underground stream. The county put city water in and the well was still working but there was no telling for how long. We all in the neighborhood, hated the new city water. Some called it man made water. Well when a man makes water we all know what he is doing.

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