Tag Archives: spoon river of houses

Fiction Friday – If Walls Could Talk – Schoolhouse

Welcome to Fiction Friday.  To see all of the Fiction Friday Posts, go to http://fiction-friday.com .  To see how the idea for If Walls Could Talk, go here..

Schoolhouse to Dentist Chair..

I was a two room schoolhouse.
My desks were rarely full. Maybe for one or two years. Then the flu came through and closed me up tight. After what seemed a season, I reopened both teachers looked drawn, exhausted. The students, fewer, looked fairly beat down as well. Some of the girls had their hair shorn back to their scalps.

It was a slow start after the illness. Before that I know some of the children would get sick and never come back, but that was two here, one there and never caused my doors to be shut tight.

With two classrooms there is still a lot of repetition. Year after year the teachers taught the same lessons, gave the same hand writing, arithmetic drills, reading circles. One group would work quietly while another group gave recitals on facts and more facts.

Being a school house was dull, almost mechanical, I saw children dread to enter with two or three behind them, cheerful and hardly able to wait to get through the doors. Some of those who couldn’t wait to get in were the first who wanted out in the afternoon.

When a family fell on hard times, kids would go missing. Sickness of a major family member kept that family’s children home. Someone had to do the chores. During planting and harvest time, the bigger boys were excused early or allowed to come in late, or not at all. Having an education is a privilege, not a right. Sitting behind a desk memorizing arithmetic did not get the crops planted or taken off to market. Some facts of life were always facts, bigger than any multiplication problem.

I was a clean place. The teachers would stay after the children were gone. They’d make notes, go to the other teacher’s room and they would chat, sometimes serious chat, problem solving and other times they’d laugh and tell stories that should have been told out of school. You know, you’ve heard it before, telling stories out of school.

The narthex is a small room, called the cloak room. Children shed coats and hats and mittens. They stomped the snow off, set their lunches on the shelf. This was a transitioning place where many children shrugged off the troubles that followed them from home. I suppose that is why some of the kids were always so anxious to get here. If the day turns nice I keep the coats until the next day. A child forgetting his coat was free to come in and retrieve it. It was the innermost doors that were off limits without a teacher.

The narthex sheltered many people over time. Sometimes, and most often they were adult men. They’d come in, usually drunk and huddle up for the night. Always careful to let themselves out before the full on break of dawn and the arrival of the teachers.

The teachers being the first ones there knew. They could smell the drink the grown men sweat. They’d remove any bottle that might have been left behind and go on as though it was an ordinary thing.

The men who slept there knew the rules unwritten and unspoken. Only the worst off left anything but a scent behind. There were regulars but never two at a time and I wondered if there was some invisible code a signal that I was occupied. If there was, I never figured it out.

The last classes happened here and ended as they should. The teachers and children were going to come back to another place next year. No one was sad.

The children cleaned me that year beside the teachers. They washed the walls, the chalkboard, even shined the pegs that kept the coats. There wasn’t even a hint of a lost fried egg sandwich.

This time they locked me up as tight as when the influenza hit the town. My electricity was turned off. My water, too. I sat like that. I didn’t take long to begin to show my abandonment. I think places need people in order to be alive, in order to be.

I just sat here. Some junk gathered up out front and a new house went up next door. Always, a few kids would come around to use my playground, but it had turned rusted and dry rotted and one day it was cleared away.

I was painted up one spring time, my roof was fixed, windows calked and I became a small office. One of my rooms was redone into something similar to stalls. Machines and padded chairs were brought in with new plumbing and bright lights.

It took a long time to get this remodeling done and I knew for certain I was not going to be a school.

Strange people came in and tested big bulky equipment. They left. Stranger people came in and tinkered with things and then the familiar testers came back again. After this went on a repeated a few times I had a new sign over my door.

I had been converted into a dentist’s office with room for three patients to wait at a time. I had to wonder if the town expected an epidemic of toothaches.

I soon discovered that no one really likes to come through the door. I can feel the discomfort, the pain, the worry and the dread before they even get to the room in back.

They seem quite cheerful, putting on a good face, telling a flat joke. Then they get to the chair.

They lie down and mostly grip the arms. I fully expect them to bound up and take flight. Some of them do.

One gentleman, young, came in one day. He was a falsely cheerful as any of them. The woman got him in the chair and turned away. Like he’d be jolted by live wires, the fellow leapt up out of the chair and bounded straight out the door and the next door and the narthex where children hung their coats.

This happened a lot, but usually in a more controlled way as the patient talked his or her way out of the chair apologizing all the way out the front door.

Now, I’m empty again. They have left me as I am, one chair that they didn’t resell and a gutted x-ray machine. When people drive by they still call me the old school house. It is more pleasant that being called the old dentist’s office.

The Old Schoolhouse

The Mill House if Walls Could Talk

I was built at the turn of the century, the last one, not the current one.

The mill employed most of the town.

The Story Millhouse

Now I sit abandoned. Very recently my bashed out windows were boarded over with ply wood. Many of them shattered in the June hail storm of 2009. I’ve been reclaimed by small animals, birds and squatters.

I’ve been empty these past few years.

The last human who lived here was a fellow who wore coveralls every day. I am not sure what he did for a living. He kept cars here, sedans and 4 wheel drives. They gathered dust.

The man in coveralls kept the cars here for the men who were deployed in the wars that started after 9 / 11.

When he moved away, so did the cars.

Before that, I was known as the college house, named so by the lady who lives across the way.

This is a college town. MSU is heavy into agricultural studies. What better place for students to live than on the land that had once been an agricultural center point.

I am an historical building. That keeps me from being significantly altered and I can’t be torn down. Letting me fall apart is an okay thing to do.

I have a concrete sort of base that is crumbling from age. To restore me a crew would have to take me apart brick by brick, pour a new foundation and put new mortar between the bricks.
Here is a bit from a local Newspaper Article.

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“There’s really no one looking after the place, no one taking care of it and it’s an extremely attractive target for vandals,” said Mark Hufstetler, an architectural historian and chairman of the Bozeman Historic Preservation Advisory Board.

The property dates back to 1882, when Nelson Story bought it and built a towering grain elevator he advertised as the largest in the state, according to local historian Phyllis Smith. After a fire destroyed the original mill, the Story family rebuilt the operation in 1901. The old mill is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s one of the most important things we have left of when agriculture was considered the most important industry in the Gallatin Valley,” Hufstetler said.

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Now, this is a short history of Nelson Story..

Nelson Story, Sr. (April 4, 1838 – 1926) was a pioneer Montana entrepreneur, cattle rancher, miner and vigilante, who was a notable resident of Bozeman, Montana. He was best-known for his 1866 cattle drive from Texas with approximately 1000 head of Texas Longhorns to Montana along theBozeman Trail—the first major cattle drive from Texas into Montana. His business ventures in Bozeman were so successful that he became the town’s first millionaire. In 1893, he played a prominent role in the establishment of the Agricultural College of the State of Montana by donating land and facilities. He built the first Story Mansion on Main Street in Bozeman in 1880 and later built today’s Story Mansion at the corner of Willson and College for his son, T. Byron Story in 1910. In his later years, he became a prominent real estate developer in Los Angeles, California.

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With a name like the Story Mill a place like this deserves preservation and telling. Even novelizing if it should come to that.

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Story settled his family in Bozeman where he used his business sense and cattle fortune to engage in banking, mercantile and grain businesses. In 1882, along with Lester S. Willson, J.E. Martin, Broox Martin, and Edwin Lewis, Story helped capitalize one of the first banks in the county, the Gallatin Valley National Bank. The bank failed during the Panic of 1893 and never reopened. In 1882, Story opened the Story Flour Mill at the mouth of Bridger Creek. This mill produced up to 100 bushels a day and was a major source of flour for the U.S. Army at Fort Ellis and for the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana. His business activities made him Bozeman’s first millionaire.

Story donated 160 acres (65 ha) of land in 1893 for an agricultural college that became Montana State University. In 1876 he was accused, but not indicted, of defrauding the Crow Indians—and later claimed he had bribed the jury. He was called a “cattle king”, “captain of industry”, and a “robber baron”.
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If Old Man Story came back from the other side and had a look at the mill house and the surrounding buildings he would see a tumble down grain elevator with the faded ghostly sign bearing a flour bag. It’s the wheat.
He would see televisions and tossed out couches between the ware house and silos and occasional camper parked in the shadows. He would see graffiti he couldn’t read nor make any since of broken windows overlooking a town that looks back sadly and wonders what went wrong.

Nothing much happens here except the smokers and drinkers who sneak into the shadows.

The family across the way has grown two children and grand babies come to play in the yard.

I don’t know what my fate will be. They can’t tear down an historic site but no one can afford to fix me up.

So, I’ll wait. I used to be the center of agriculture. Rail road tracks ran through me and the Bridger Creek babbled. The stock yards were busy. Now, I don’t even know who owns me.

The Mill House

Fiction Friday – A Lighthouse

Fiction Friday  -  From a Lighthouse -

A Spoon River Anthology of Houses.  All of these Fiction Friday entries can be found at http://fiction-friday.com .

 
I was very useful in my day.

I have seen myself on postcards and tarot cards, key rings spoons, salad dressing labels, calanders. I’ve been painted.

I don’t have corners after you leave my lower floors.

I had a keeper continuously for the longest time. After a really averge huricane I was shored up and improved. I have survived a lot of storms. I am hard to get to, though not as difficult as I was in the early days.

My spiral and steep starecase went all the way up to the light chamber. Whale oil and loads of cleaning kept me bright.

I was one of the first to have a frenzil lens and one of the last to be modernized and put on auto pilot.

I wouldn’t mind a new keeper, one who slept here, a family, small family, a few kids. But these days everyone is affraid to keep kids in such an unsecured yard. One tumble and a kid would be in the ocean dashed against the rocks.

They opened me to tourism and that in my opinion is more death defying than a few kids playing tag or hide and seek. Those people who pay to walk through and listen to a guide miss tell the history, are very stupid. The park folks had to forbid visits to my upper most reaches when someone nearly fell over the railing.

On the tarot card I am struck by lightening and bashed by giant waves. Two people are falling through the sky with flames and ashes not far behind.

They say my tower represents narrow mindedness. I never thought so, those who needed me were looking for a mark, ever fixed and predictable. You wouldn’t want a liberal lighthouse any more than you would want to center your weather lab in the middle of a mobile home park.

A light keeper’s life was predictable, somewhat isolated but a job well done.

We are identified by how long it takes to sweep out light, the tones of our fog horns and the colors of our outsides. We are all unique.

Sure, no one in the modern age really needs me. They can plug into space with nothing more than a cell phone signal. But I can tell you when the lights go out they will want me back. Any port in a storm they say.

Sure, they’d have to relearn signals and tones. They would have to fall back on some fairly decent math skills, map or chart skills, too. But they’d sure be happy for my predictablily.

My favorite keeper died right on the steps, about two thirds of the way up. He was an old fellow when he went. He spent a lot of years here and was getting on in age.

He was coming up the steps, he’d done it so many time, he’d haul the whale oil up and take the empty down. Anyway, this trip he had forgotten to bring the oil up. He headed back down to get it.

It was a longer trip than usual.

He got the fuel and was trudging up the steps, one, two, three, he paused. Sat down, stood up, walked a few steps more and leaned against the wall. He rested for a good long time and then began again. He could clearly see the top when he simply gave out.

He lay on my steps, cold, limp, finally stiff and the delivery boat fellow found him in here when he didn’t come out for his supplies.

The next person how lived here brought a wife. Couples are not unheard of in the business of lighting. They were quite comfortable with each other. At first.

The woman liked to paint. She would sit for hours with water colors and paper. The man liked to cook. My lower reaches smelled so good a person would hardly be offended by the fishy smell of burning oil.

The woman grew pudgy and soft and the man seemed to thrive. He was slim and where he put all of that food was a downright mystery to me.

One day a letter came and there was a lot of flustering. The woman insisted that she had to go. Someone needed care. The man countered that she was supposed to be caring for him. The woman won and the man kept cooking.

He got along quite well without the woman, even though he kept her painting and sat with them filling me with heavy sighs.

He began to take short trips, during good weather, clear skies and calm winds to town. He was never gone more than a few hours.

He came back with a younger man. They set up house, at first the younger man kept his own room. Later though, I’m going to say, they fell in love. A secret love. So sweet. So much denied when anyone dropped by with goods.

The younger man learned light keeping here. He didn’t paint. They took good care of me. Still, my favorite keeper was the old man who died on my steps.

Time passed and things changed. I am not so sure what went on but one day the men began to pack. The man took his wife’s paintings and floated them out to sea one at a time. He watched the hungry sea take them away and the younger man looked away.

Did I mention I have been closed down. I stood cold and dark and lonely for a time. A long time. The weather didn’t harm me and someone or group desided I was romantic, scenic and quaint.

I hosted photo ops for tourests. Then I was roped off, kids were having parties on the rocks and leaving marks of joy behind.

A year or so back, a small group of people related by mindfulness, started cleaning me. They put in new hardware, paint.. They pretty much replaced and restored me where ever they could.

Then a walkway was put in that lead lines of people up to see me.

A gift shop opened downstairs. Photos, postcards, picture puzzles, key chains, and goofy little spoons filled me and people were paying to see me.

I still have my top most layers closed off in fear of stupid human kind.

I am still not a usefull house. No one looks toward me on stormy nights. I am quite sure my trail would be the first thing to wash away in the event of a storm, but I’d still be here.

Sure, I wish someone would light me up on regular nights, not the season of lights, christmas time, they dress me like a comon tramp with miles of small colored lights wrapped round and round me. That is the only time anyone except sneaky young lovers stay the night.

More than my guiding usefulness I miss the old man who died on my steps. Did I tell you, the guide never even mentions the old man who died here.

No one seems to recall the round woman who painted here or the love between the men.

__A Lighthouse

Come back next week and don’t touch anything sharp.  You can read all of the Habakkuk Stories at http://fiction-friday.com