Saturday, May 29, 2010
The Farm House
Across Kansas and the other plains states farm houses dot the landscape, a testament to the courage of the settlers who first tamed the prairie. Go down any country road, inevitably one finds a farm house situated near a pond or a creek. Its location defies logic. Trial and error has destined that a family should try its luck at homesteading, but not all trials are successful. The empty farmhouses remain. They still stand like the giant stone heads of Easter Islands, a monument to a past race whose stories are now forgotten.
It is inevitable that in time, the wood takes on the appearance of great age. And against the color of the deep green grass and the pale blue sky, the wood is a lifeless gray. The windows panes are black and opaque, or left empty; you can imagine the ghosts of a family still lingering.
Once there was a lot of sound. In the summer one imagines mother cooking supper in the kitchen, she is wearing a sleeveless cotton dress that she sewed herself, father comes from the fields, he mops the sweat and dirt of the day's labor from his brow, and the several children - usually there were several to make up for the absence of neighbors and the loneliness of life on the prairie - the children come in the back door barefoot and wearing loose fitting clothes, still excited after a day at the swimming hole. They all get ready to join in the one certain daily ritual, the evening meal. Their faces are indistinct. I can't make out whether their hair is blond or brown, their eyes blue, green or black. They might have been German or Swedish, English or French immigrants. Time has erased all memory of them. Most of the furniture was taken when the family left the house.A few scrapes of paper remain, but the words are darkened and worm eaten, so that even a forensic scientist could not put a name to the place or the faces.
The strangest thing of all is the silence. One can imagine the endless activity that took place over the years that the house was occupied. Visitors coming and going, a birthday party, a long succession of nights around the dinner table, and an evening on the porch watching the stars. Now the silence is funereal, and I think that this fate awaits each house. One day I will be old and gray, the kids will be gone, and my house will stand empty, and its story forgotten.
More images of farm houses.