News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

April 5, 2009

The Off Season: ‘The House With Nobody In It’

I have a friend who spends hours with his metal detector in search of treasure. He wanders fields and fence rows, old city lots and deserted buildings in the hunt for what fell from overall pockets and dusty summer kitchen counters decades ago. He has been rewarded, too; it is not unusual for him to turn up coins and buckles and ancient silverware. I envy the solitude of his hobby, and his sense of history, for he practices his pastime not to make money, but to spend his time in peace, sprinkled with a sense of adventure, of course.

My wife and I know of places we could send him in search of booty, although it is more likely that all he will find are a few tin cans, perhaps a license plate or old medicine bottle. Those places are often dotted with daffodils, for when we see those yellow flowers seemingly growing alone on spots near the country roads we travel, there’s a good chance that a house once stood there as well. It is those delicate but hardy little springtime blooms that have outlasted timbers and bricks and shingles and the people who put them there. With the spring flowers now beginning to show off for us, it is the time of the year we can rediscover such places.

We grew up near deserted houses, my mate and I. We played in them with brothers and sisters and cousins. The adventures we shared in them are among the best we can recall. We explored them, peering through their broken window panes and walking their creaking floorboards and stairways, and we probably had no idea how many abandoned wells and cisterns and rusting nails we luckily sidestepped in the process.

We didn’t know the fates of their owners or tenants; we just knew that what was there was free for the taking, that whatever had been in them that was worth much had been moved out years before, the remainder left to rot or collect dust or wear away with time.

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