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The old home place: Once the site of happy Norman Rockwell moments, now returning to the earth

By on January 28, 2019 in Articles with 0 Comments
The old home place now: Abandoned, the victim of falling dead trees, but still alive in family memory.
In the 1940s, the old home place still was a place for the extended family to gather and renew their connections.
Dan Jordan

By Dan Jordan

My morning’s wandering has brought me to this quiet place in the farmland of the Waterville plateau. 

I stop my car, get out and stand in the bracing cold on a particular country road. Toasty in my winter coat, I survey the fields surrounding me, dormant under a blanket of snow.

West of me the white expanse slopes gently upward to where the cloudless horizon seems within a mere mile or two of where I stand. I look east, where the road runs gradually downslope toward Dutch Henry draw, an ancient glacial drainage ravine. 

Four stone-throws away is the abandoned house where my grandparents, ethnic Germans who long ago left a doomed settlement in Russia, raised eight kids.

Known to dad and his seven siblings in later decades as “the old home place,” the collapsing farmhouse stands beneath the hoary overgrowth of trees that seem to try to shield its decrepitude from the world. 

I recall a black and white photograph of 1940’s-vintage cars parked at that house in days when extended family would gather now and again for meals, socializing and Christmas celebrations. 

I imagine Norman Rockwell moments come alive; then I feel an inner tug, knowing dad and the others are gone now. Becoming forgotten. 

And the old home place, veiled in peace beneath the encompassing trees, is imperceptibly drawn groundward into that same forgetfulness. 

I look at the field to my right, its wheat bounty harvested so many times by generations of my family through most of the 20th Century to the present. I had been a city teenager privileged to help with several of those harvests and other farm work in the summertimes of the 1970s. This ground is imbued with the memory of my kinfolk.

I post-hole my way several yards into the field, stop and inhale the brisk and singular elegance of the morning. A copious fall of snow has come during the night, and no wheat stubble pokes through the fresh white expanse discovered by the dawn. 

The sun is bright, belying the frigid chill pinpricking my face. The sky is a striking azure, the air around me still, silent. I am fascinated by the white universe at my feet, with snow-crystal stars glittering dazzlingly in their millions, billions, as far afield as I look. 

It is one of the few sublime moments of my life. Strange, even the music of this memory will be lost to time someday. 

Still, something survives the moldering timbers of the old family homestead and the fading, precious history it represents. 

The many descendants of my grandparents have spread like dandelion seeds to the four winds. And while most of them may know nothing of the place where I stand dreaming, they have invisible roots that reach across time and distance back to this humble and, I think, hallowed place beneath the trees. 

I linger awhile amidst the glittering stars. 

“So many people have come and gone; 

their faces fade as the years go by.

Yet I still recall as I wander on,

as clear as the sun in the [winter] sky.

When I’m tired and thinking cold, 

I hide in my music, forget the day,

…and dream.” 

— More Than A Feeling, 

by Boston

Dan Jordan retired two years ago from Chelan County Courthouse IT Department after 25 years, and was in the IT industry for about 35 years. He lives with his wife, Gail, two dogs and a cat in East Wenatchee. 

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