Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Letting Go....its a hard thing to do.

       When Lew and I were dating, sometime in the first month he drove me to this remote area and parked in the middle of the snow and said that his folks were expecting us for dinner, but we would have to walk from this field to the house.  I didn't have boots ( I only owned fashion boots anyway)  but I said "Sure" and off we went.  First it was past an old coal strip mine "wall" then down a frozen creek.  After a mile or so, I wanted to forget this trip...but Lew said we were almost there.  Sure enough a nice red house appeared!  When I first stepped in the house a wonderful aroma of roast beef hit me.  The fireplace was lit and ready to warm us....I put my shoes near the fire to dry and I nearly set them on fire.   The view of the river really hit me.  It was frozen in chunks, some of the chunks turned up.   Seems the ice had broken, but not really melted or traveled downstream.  It wasn't a big ice year like some years.
       We had June's wonderful roast beef, (homemade) bread and a salad.  It was the first of many meals where I finished the salad, which in my family was a summer only treat.  I donned my toasted shoes, put on my coat and got in Wade's 4 x 4 truck and he drove us up the mountain to where Lew had parked!  Thus started my love/hate affair with the woods.
     I met Lew in January of 1971.  During the summer, I worked at my Uncle's meat store in Aspinwall.  I saved my money.  Lew asked me to spend my cash on buying a bread truck.  For some bizarre reason, I did.  Late in the fall we married so he also owned the bread truck as well as getting a dog as a dowry.
     In January of 1972, we helped Wade and June move one load after another from the sold house in Lower Burrell to their retirement house in the woods.  Nearly all of it was moved in the bread van.  Tons and tons of stuff carried by all of us as we managed that move.  Then we stayed and helped them locate the stuff.  I painted all the filing cabinets and the drawers in the spare bedroom while Lew and his Dad shuffled stuff about.
     Finally it was time for us to move on.  That is when Lew got a
job in Butler and we purchased a mobile home.  We both really disliked the trailer court.  In 1972 we bought rough cut oak boards and with homasote walls we constructed what became known as the gingerbread house.  It was 8 x 12, and we thought someday it would become our house.
    At some point after that we traded our trailer in on a 8 x 30 trailer that we moved to the woods.  That is when we dug the first water line and  build our first septic tank.  We lived in that trailer until we escaped to our hippie life in Arizona during 1973. Uncle Stanley eventually bought it and moved to the woods.
    Since that first escape we have moved to the woods numerous times.  When I was pregnant with Adam we fixed up the  old camp (first built in 1935).  We lived in that camp on and off for many years.  We would leave it (I hated not owning the place and the constant reminders that it wasn't ours) .  Come back when Lew was laid off work.  Then leave (I also hated the schools) and come back when Lew was laid off his work.  Until finally, I decided to attend college and stop the work on and off crap.  In 1988 I got a job as a school librarian and we left the woods.  We still spent most weekends driving to see Wade when he lived back in his lovely woods.
     I had so many learning experiences.  I learned how to use a saw, straight-edge, drill press,  sanders, and screwdrivers while building stuff with Lew and Wade.  I learned how to dig ditches and shovel coal out of the ground.  I learned how to saw down a tree (but never did that myself).  I learned how to use a wood splitter (did do that), mix cement and lay block.
     I learned about animals.  I watched beaver build a dam in a coal spoil pile, I saw a bear try to grab suet in the early spring from a porch, I spied my first fox, learned what porcupines do to wood and animals, that groundhogs can climb trees when chased by a dog, that deer can be chased down by wild dogs, that cats like to take walks with people, and frogs jump when people walk past.
     I learned where to look for blueberries and blackberries.  The differences between a red and white oak along with poplar and beech trees.
     It was also a lonely life.  I didn't have friends in the area and no transportation to meet anyone.  Our kids didn't have neighbors to play with.  I disliked the schools.  Money was very scarce with the work then not work cycle. Living next to the in-laws wasn't happy frequently for many physical and mental reasons. I was ready to leave when we did.
    But I always knew that the house and land were there.  In 2007 Wade said he was done with the Woods and gave us the house and nine acres.  He left the Woods for the last time that November and he and Laura Lynne boarded the train in Pittsburgh and left for New Mexico.

    In the Spring of 2013 we decided to rehabilitate the house with an eye to moving there. In pursuit of a strong moldy smell we pulled down the ceiling tile and insulation to find that Wade and June had applied Alcoa aluminum foil to the underside of the roof sheathing which had the long term effect of trapping moisture and thus promoting the growth of lots of Black Mold. Because Wade had built a new roof on top of the original one there was no way to remove the moldy sheathing. Demolition was the only option.

    It was so hard to decide to tear down the place.  I've told some of my history with the dear woods.   It seemed fitting that we move the stuff out of the house and store it in our first Toyota motorhome, the shed and the picnic shelter. So we did.  We worked and worked with the help of some of the local people.  The pictures show what was done and how it looks now.  All the dumps are covered.  The house is gone.  It's ready for a brave new world.
"Normal" woods house picture...
...Until I turn the camera.
That is the back door that I made a million trips through with trays of Food and Drink to go to the picnic shelter.
All done.  I'm standing at the corner of the house. You can see the slope and the picnic shelter.  The big rock is where the porch used to be. 
Marco parked where the carport was located.  The river view is very close to the living room view of yore.

The Reitz dump before.
After it was buried.
The covered Johns dump.
The covered
sorry frogs!

This is where our house (the original camp) used to be and now it is the burial site of Wade's house.  That is the House Rock placed to mark where the house is buried.



  1. Thanks for a very nice post and well written story Jan.


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