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Shared Exploration (Part III)

“Next, I’ll show you the old box car. It’s over this way.” I explained. We walked westward.

We paused to admire a large, lone oak tree standing a little distance away from the barn. It was a grand tree, branches reaching for the sky. The green grass was fairly lush on this side of the barn though still patchy in some spots, yet long for April. We looked at the wooden roof peak as we passed, I had mistaken it as part of the barn when I was here with Larry but asked Jesse, “Do you think that was part of the barn?”

“No, it was from an entirely different building.” Maybe it had been a chicken coop. Every farm use to have chickens. Further along, we passed an old wooden fence post standing in the ground, most of its top weathered and rotted away. The box car is visible from a ways off. While I paused to take some photos of various things that caught my attention, Jesse continued on toward the box car, taking the lead. A quick pace allowed me to catch up to him before he reached the box car. After observing the outside structure of it intently, he agreed that it had to be a box car. I encouraged him to look inside, on the walls, pointing out the names of grains on the walls at differing heights – I think he found it intriguing as I did. He explained that oats are much lighter than rye which is why the mark for oats is near the top and rye is closer to the bottom.

“I wonder how it ended up here.” Jesse said. How it came to be here and what it was used for once it got here was also on my mind. It sat a ways away from the other buildings, all of which were in various states of ruin. The box car was in fact the most pristine of all the human structures on this farmstead.

Again, we were on the move in only a few minutes, continuing our exploration. We headed back eastward but not toward the barn, rather toward the dilapidated house. Larry and I hadn’t checked out the house either, so I was eager to do that with Jesse too.

As we approached the house, I realized it was in much worse shape than I had thought. One section of it had fallen down completely. The roof over that section had probably caved in first bringing the two walls with it. Thin but tall trees grew all around the house. If you cored the oldest, biggest tree, you’d probably come close to how long ago the house has been abandoned. We came upon it from what was most likely the back side of it. We weaved around the trees, walking along the north side of it, but several yards away. Jesse walked ahead of me. We approached it with caution, our steps unhurried, perhaps with a dash of fear from our imaginations working over time.

Jesse asked, “What if there’s a body in there?” perhaps pretending to be more fearful than he was to give me a hard time. Though if his fear was real, I wouldn’t have judged him – after all discovering a body would be quite alarming and I certainly would be scared.

However, I very much doubted there was a body inside unless it was an animal, “Why would there be a body in there? I doubt there is.” I responded.

Part of the northeast side of the house didn’t match the rest of the house in looks, most likely an addition to the original house. It had red wooden siding, two windows and a chimney. (Or perhaps this was the original part of the house and the other part was an addition.) Though decaying it wasn’t yet falling down and wasn’t in terribly bad shape yet. As we drew nearer to the house, Jesse ahead of me, a vulture flew out startling us both but more so Jesse because he had been looking that direction and actually saw the bird better than I did. I saw it more out of the corner of my eye and hadn’t actually seen where the bird had come from.

“Was that a vulture? Was it in the house?” I asked.

“Yes, it was in the house. Why was it in the house? I’m scared, Babe,” he joked. Why was it in the house? It’s really big to be in the house.”

“I don’t know. I didn’t know vultures went in to old, abandoned houses.”

He was a little less eager and far more hesitant to look into the house now. I wasn’t slowed down in my resolve to look inside the house – I admit I did have a tinge of fear, though I knew there was probably nothing.

The rest of the house was white, or rather had been white before the paint faded and wore off to gray. We had rounded the northeast corner of the decaying house. I had to pause in writing before I described the east side of the house because I was about to describe it in a way that would have given the impression that it was scary and haunted, which isn’t true. I want to be careful not to describe it in such a way; it would be unfair to the memory of the house. The only thing scary was the vulture, which was more startling than scary, and our own imaginings. It looked sad and dejected, like a puppy having been beaten and locked away in a pound, no longer wanted. Cinderella after her stepsisters tore her dress in pieces, sitting in the dirt, shoulders stooped and bare, pieces of her dress hanging at unnatural angles, tear stained and dirt smeared face, totally defeated yet not quite ready to give in completely. The windows were glass-less, the glass long ago shattered with no memory of it remaining, the wooden frames stood empty, gaping wounds. It looked like there had been a third window but for whatever reason was covered up with wood, like a hastily bandaged wound. Pieces of the siding had fallen off in a few places, leaving black scars. The door was wood too, not like a regular house door but rather like an old barn door. The cement stoop in front of the door was cracked in several places and starting to crumble. The steps going up to it were in similar condition.  Red brick chimney stuck up above the roof near the east peak. There was a cellar under this part of the house. The doors over the steps leading down into the cellar from the outside were missing, long since broken off. We walked toward the cellar to check that out first. That’s where the vulture had been.

At some point I had pushed up my sleeves again because the walking made me hot. As we walked toward the cellar entrance a beetle landed on my arm. Rather than freaking out or being bothered by it, I was fascinated and asked Jesse to take a picture of it, carefully handing him my camera. We’d both seen this species of beetle before but neither of us knew what it was. Jesse thought maybe it was a lightning bug. (It’s been awhile since my intro to entomology class and the beetle order, Coleoptera is huge and without a better (closer up) photo or studying the specimen closely, I can’t identify it to family. However, looking through my beetle field guide, it could be in the narrow-waisted bark beetle family (Salpingidae) of the genus python, soldier beetle family (Cantharidae) of the genus cantharis or podabrus, blister beetle family (Meloidae) a nuttail blister beetle, or the lightning bug family (Lampyridae). That’s a lot of possibilities, I know, but considering the sheer number of beetle families, narrowing it down to four families is pretty good. Though I could be totally wrong, it could be another family entirely. But it has the body shape similar to the ones I listed.) The beetle had a black body with some orange /yellow on its neck. Jesse was only able to take a couple of photos before it flew away.

A vole scampered out from the cellar steps as we approached, immediately disappearing in the plants creeping in on the house. Before crouching down to take a look into the cellar, I walked a few steps beyond it to take a peek around the southeast corner. Again, the siding didn’t match the rest of the house but was red like the north side. There was a double window, also without its glass covering. It looked like there had been more to the house here, or at very least a porch. – there was a wide overhang of roof (perhaps five or six feet) that now hung down, falling off slowly, just bare boards, no shingles left. There was an open doorway next to the window, mostly blocked from my view by the falling down roof. A pile of thin, rotting boards lay scattered about on the ground, along with sheets of plastic, the kind to hold in insulation. There also appeared to be remnants of cement covered in leaves and tufts of green, colonizing plants.

I moved back by the cellar entrance close to Jesse. Looking up at the upstairs window, all I could see was the chimney which appeared to stand quite close to the window. There were six panes on the top half of the window, it may have been a twelve paned window. We crouched down together to look down in the cellar; we didn’t go in, the degree of decay rendered the structure unsafe. I did creep down one of the steps though to get a better look. It was very dark inside. The whole floor, of what we could see, was completely covered in junk. We were both a bit surprised there was so much stuff down there.  An old wooden and canvas chair that folds up, a broken basket, a wooden window frame, a vehicle tire, a plastic plant pot, landscaping bricks, pieces of wood, rusty metal pieces, rusty metal pipes, a fuel barrel or heater/boiler of some sort, white foam chunks. No bodies though.

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