When I was a girl there was a shack down the road from where I grew up. We lived in the country so there were just fields around us and this place and one other farm were the only homes that could fully be seen from our windows. My parents said that the neighbors just let them have that place on their property. This tiny house was never painted and was on a bit of space under a few oak trees. There were some small LP tanks up along the house. This little place had another smaller structure near it that I knew to be an outhouse.
I only knew about it being an outhouse as my grandma had one for when they were out gardening and I thought it was such a novelty. Another family that we visited in the neighborhood also had one for their daily use. Since most people I knew had indoor plumbing this was always a curiosity and my parent’s generation was all too familiar with that when they were children.
There was an old car in the yard. It was big, having rounded hood, roof and fenders. It looked as tired as the men that lived in the shack. About every week or so, the two men that lived in that shack and owned that car drove the 1/8 of a mile to our house and got water. They put them in big metal cans hauled out from their backseat. The cans were silver colored and were long with lids and a handle to help boost them back into the car after filling. They swung easily out of the car either their way to the milk house or the water pump in the center of the yard. They didn’t come to the house for water.
They were just part of the neighborhood. I would sometimes ask my parents about them either when they drove in and the dogs would bark and someone would call out, “Carson and Jim are here!” or when we drove by the shack on the way to town. Sometimes I would just gaxe at the house on the way past and think about how life was like for them. I didn’t question so much then, things were as they were.
When we drove by at night I could see the light from what I could see was a small TV and then I noticed the antenna fastened on the roof. I guess they did have a bit of what we did too. I was glad of it as my girl imagination could not imagine what they did all day besides use water. I had asked my parents if they had things to read or a radio and Dad thought they most likely had a radio after awhile. I think they had mail delivery much later. I do remember that when we heard there were tornadoes, Dad would go down to let them know and I worried where they would go as there was not a basement under that shack. Mom thought they might drive over to Carson’s brother’s house if needed.
If they ever did come to the house it was when my dad was home and he called them over to get some food my mom had prepared for them. Sometimes she would have leftovers from a church function and would carefully wrap it up in some wrapping that needn’t be returned. Sometimes she would make something extra and send Dad down to give it to them.
I don’t remember Carson coming into the house. Dad would talk to them outside. I got the message they were very dirty and smelled bad. It was on the empty side of the water cans so when we saw them they were not their freshest selves. They both always had a course stubble and bad teeth. Carson was always nice and waved. Jim talked very loudly and took over the driving later. When Carson was gone, Jim lived there alone for a while and would come to the house and enter the backroom area where my Dad mentioned that he could possibly use a wash up and gingerly got him out of the house before the smell would come in farther. I remember having to leave the door open for a while to air the backroom out.
I am sure it happened more than I was aware, but my dad stopped in to check on those men as he hadn’t seen them for awhile getting water. He found Carson not being able to get up and Jim not knowing well enough what to do. Dad told us that he carried the then elderly Carson to the truck and drove him to get medical help.
They said that Carson made money as a carpenter and had a house that was what we know in the neighborhood as the woods and piece of land that is now a 4-H wayside. His wife had died and the house was no longer there. Maybe this is all incorrect, but I am just remembering what a kid knows.
Carson liked dogs and I think he even had a hound on that little property when I was a kid. He used to pet and give a scratch to our dogs, Duke, Chrissy and Topper. They would bark and howl with delight when they drove in. Once we had a batch of puppies that were being their puppy selves. Though I tried to get the puppies away from the wheels of that old car, Carson rolled over one of them and it died. I remember him wiping his eyes with his old dirty hand on his scruffy face as he grieved with us on the death of the puppy.
Today Dollie and I walked passed where the shack used to stand. I remembered all I knew about those two men. All that is left is the oaks and an empty space where the shack was, but the thought of people in our neighborhood still is there.