Cabin at Mojave - California
Over the years I've heard lots of complaining about getting old. It's people who do the complaining, not animals, or trees, or buildings. I'm getting tired. No doubt about it--I won't be here forever, but that's okay. Back in the day I was someone. Shoot. I even got my picture taken and sent off to Washington DC to the president or someone like that. I'm telling you it was a big deal.
My people--Davis was their name-- had been working hard to own themselves a piece of land. That's why I was here. They moved out this way and built me up so they had someplace to live and raise their children. In those days land was free, at least sometimes.
William and Frances arrived here in a wagon, carrying their itty-bitty girl Grace with them. They lived in that wagon while they were building me.
My goodness I remember the day they moved in. Grace was walking by then, and Frances was heavy with another child. "This baby will be born in a real house," she said as she stepped through the doorway. I wasn't the finest piece of architecture, I know that, but Frances sure did make me feel special! She had a nice piece of blue cloth that she turned into curtains, and she was always looking for a bit of a flower or a plant she could bring inside and set on the table. She had that second baby right here, with me helping out by keeping the sun off her. A lady came from over nearer the mountains and helped the most, but still, I was part of it. They named that baby John, and they tucked his cradle into the corner where I could shelter him from the wind and the sun.
Life wasn't easy for them. I know that. I gathered that life hadn't been easy wherever they'd been before either. They tried to farm, but in some ways they'd been misled. The land they put me on was desert, not farmland. Anyway...I wanted to tell you about that picture of me. It was the spring after John was born, and a fellow came around offering to take a picture. Frances offered him some lunch, and William pulled out the box where they kept their money, when they had any. I don't know what they paid for that picture, but I do know why they wanted it. Seems they had to send proof they had built me, cause that was the way they could keep the land. After the lunch was eaten that fellow set up all sorts of equipment and messed around for the longest time. Grace stood in the doorway watching him, and I imagine that when my picture went to Washington hers did too. My, they were happy that day, talking about some deed that was going to be sent and how they'd stay here forever on their own land.
Trouble is, they didn't ever get that deed. Like I said, they built me in the desert, and though the first couple of years we had some rain, after that it got dryer and hotter. They couldn't get anything to grow. And then they had Harold, and I think that's what really did them in. It was hot as could be and for three days Frances laid there in the heat, trying not to cry out, and getting weaker and weaker. William left the neighbor lady to look after her and he went for a doctor. When that baby was born it wasn't anything like when John had been born. John could shake my walls he screamed so loud sometimes. But Harold barely made a noise. He just laid in the cradle in the corner and I did my best to keep him shaded. He died 10 days after he'd been born, and they buried him out under a Joshua tree behind the house. Shortly after that they packed up the few things they owned and left.
I waited, at first, hoping they'd come back or that I'd get a new family, but truth was by then folks had figured out how hard it is to farm a desert. So I've mostly been alone since then. Oh, people stop by and visit. Occasionally someone has a liaison, but mostly it's just me. Over the years I accepted it. I know now that I'm too far gone to even provide shelter. Won't be long 'til my time here is finished. But from time to time someone still stops by and takes my picture, and every time it happens I remember that first picture, with little Grace standing in the doorway, and everyone happy as could be about that piece of paper they wanted.
From If These Walls Could Speak