Visiting an old friend
Been a while since I posted a blog. The holidays are long gone now and I've gotten back to working on photos again since things at work are starting to settle down a bit and I've gotten a handle on completing some personal development goals with photography. I spent most of the month of January getting ready for my next challenge in photography. Lots of photos, some creative energy, an odd idea or two, tons and tons of editing; all in order to finish some goals before the baseball season kicks off. Very soon. I'm actually really looking forward to baseball season kicking off and getting out to take some photos of baseball again. Listening to the sounds of the game, a mouthful of salty sunflower seeds, and trying to capture some great shots on the field; I honestly relish it. Here's hoping for a warm March!
But I've had a bit of lull between personal goals and the start of the season so I had a chance to go out and visit what I consider an old friend now. Sometime last year I visited a place I call the Clark House. It sits about a quarter mile off the road due east of a historical marker declaring the spot where the Walter Clark house stood. I honestly don't know for certain that the house I've visited is actually the Walter Clark house or if it's a neighbor or perhaps someone else from the family. It fits the time period and given the lack of any other evidence that a house from that period stood in the vicinity of the sign it's pretty certain this was the house. I took a number of photos of the house on my first visit but reflecting on those photos a few months later I wanted to go back again to try some different shots or re-take some shots with the right equipment on hand. My last visit also didn't allow for a complete tour of the house due to the enormous number of hornets and wasps that now call her home. In fact a hallway was completely impassable due to a nest of what I shall refer to as hornets the size of something you'd find on an aircraft carrier. I don't fancy the idea of myself running out of an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere screaming like a school girl so I agreed with the hornets that the back half of the upstairs was theirs.... for the summer. I silently declared to myself (all in my head, of course) and absolutely nothing like what MacArthur probably sounded like, "I shall return.".
Returning in winter it was clear that my naval aviator friends were all dead and frozen solid or were enjoying a long winter's nap. Either way, not posing a threat to my ego. I re-toured the house and it was clear the house had had visitors since I'd last been there. Objects had been moved, an old record my buddy and I had found was nowhere to be found, doors that were open before were now closed (and in one case, locked -- what the ??) but whomever the visitor(s) was there was no obvious new damage to the house. My hope that the approach to the house would be easier was dashed quickly. I got hung up in the same stupid aluminum wire, ripped my shirt on thorns, and the tripod on my pack got hung up on overgrowth near the front porch.... again. #@$#@!! Damn kudzu or whatever evil viny devil plant that it is. For a moment, just a moment, I wanted a flamethrower and imagined myself laughing maniacally as I watched my deciduous enemy melt and burn in the heat of my flaming wrath.
<ahem> But I digress. Because of the overgrowth it's not really possible to get a good photograph of the outside of the house. It's shrouded in overgrowth until you get onto what's left of the porch. In fact, even if you have a clear line of site to the house, from the road (especially in winter) or anywhere else, you cannot see the house at all unless you catch a bit of the roof sticking out.
Being able to go through the entire house I realized just how big of a house that she is. There were an additional two bedrooms upstairs that I didn't get to see before and they were both decent sized bedrooms, even by modern standards. They even shared a chimney for a fireplace on either side. The back bedroom was over the kitchen and at one point must have boasted a balcony judging by the doorway on the rear wall. But there was no sign of a balcony at all. I also noticed on the tin roof, outside one of the bedroom windows what appeared to be bear scat (even after looking at photos of verified black bear scat I'm pretty sure it was). I have to admit I thought it was human at first and thought to myself, "Well, when you gotta go, you gotta go." but then I noticed that unless I was staring at the poo of a human vegan it likely wasn't human. I suppose it's possible but I'm sort of doubtful that there's a vegan abandoned house explorer out there that decides s/he can't hold it, "#%# it! I'll just #@% on the roof!" That said, it's a rather interesting place for bear scat. I tried to imagine what it would look like to see a decent sized black bear taking a big dump on the roof. Honestly, I couldn't picture it. What? I didn't put the scat there! It got there somehow! Right?
After looking around and being satisfied that there wasn't anything particularly photogenic in either of these rooms I started to head back toward the front of the house. As I returned down the hallway I noticed an old and bleached bone on the floor. I'm sure it wasn't, but it did look an awful lot like part of a human humerus bone (the upper arm) that had been broken off about 3/4 of the way down to the elbow. There was no other evidence of skeletal remains anywhere else and it was certainly a very old bone. There even appeared to be bits of dried something stuck to the bone. Creepy. It was while I was standing here and looking out the hall window that I noticed daffodil sprouts coming up through the ground clutter in places that seemed very logical to plant them. Evidence, still, that the house was once a vibrant family home.
I returned to one of the bedrooms on the front of the house and noticed that from that bedroom the occupant would have had a great view of an Oak or perhaps a Pecan tree on what would have been the front lawn across the drive.
This window looks pretty much due west and I imagine probably offered some great views of sunsets. I'd love to be able to wake up and look out my window to have a view of such an Oak (or maybe a Pecan -- I'm really not sure but I'm going with Oak). You can see the front of the house below which is the roof over the front porch. The tattered window shade at the top of the window and the off-kilter screen in the window I thought also added interest to the scene. I'd have really liked to shoot straight out the window but in order get a view of that tree you cannot look straight out. The tree seems to be centered on the front of the house. I didn't notice while I was shooting but I had to chuckle at how the wallpaper in the lower right appears like a hand flipping me the bird. Back at 'ya Clark house -- you kinda creep me out. Except for the occasional passing car or truck and a barking dog in the distance it was really, really quiet in this house.
From here I went back downstairs to re-take a shot I'd done from my previous visit. There's an interesting part of the house that sits behind the staircase. It's an interesting confluence of doors; one leading outside, another into a closet and a third leading to the home's dining room. Behind me is the house's only bathroom and to the left two more rooms that could have served as an office, parlour, living room or bedroom. The sheer curtains on the door leading out really got my attention the first time I came and again on this visit. I've tried to imagine what this part of the house might have looked like when it was furnished. I've pictured a telephone sitting somewhere in this hall that leads to the front door and then around the stairs to this side door and the dining room. Today this would probably seem like wasted space but it's a large hallway and feels like the heart of the house; you can't get to another part of the house without coming through here.
Satisfied that I'd gotten the shot I wanted I moved into the dining room which is the room to the right. I imagine that large door probably stayed open most of the time but what solid door it is and it's quite a massive door considering the rest of the house.
For the dining room I had imagined a specific shot and I'd packed something with me in order to get the shot. The dining room is a pretty good sized room and would have afforded a large table and other furniture. I imagine many family gatherings and holiday feasts that took place in this room. It must have been an inviting room with the large fireplace and I imagine a sizeable table. Off of the dining room to the left is a closet I suppose was used as a pantry judging by all the shelves. To the right a door leads to a modest kitchen. From the kitchen there's access to a back porch and another storage area that may have served as an ice box or storage for perishables. To the immediate right of the dining room is another door with access to the back porch that seems to have been used by her last occupants as a sort of den. Still complete with a 1960s era console television and deep seat leather lounger chairs -- though only one chair remains (mostly) in tact. I've taken photos of the old TV before but it was not on the list for this trip and is really not all that remarkable. The back porch is also in pretty bad shape due to a tree growing out from underneath of it and seriously warping the structure. The floorboards also seemed to have deteriorated much more than I recalled from my last visit. This was also the door that was open on the last visit but this time was closed and locked (from the inside).
In the photo above (if looking in the crystal ball) the kitchen is on the left and the pantry on the right which is opposite of the actual layout.
At this point I'd been in the house for a couple of hours and it was probably time to move on since I'd left my car sitting on the side of the road in a rather conspicuous spot. As I left the house I decided to take a different way back to my car. I followed the old drive up to the house instead of the power line path directly from the road (and thus avoiding the pesky aluminum wire I'd been caught up in twice now). As I proceeded down the drive to the south I noticed a clearing that led back to the house toward the rear of it. I decided to investigate and I was not disappointed for detouring. I was hoping for a clear view of at least the south elevation of the house but the over and undergrowth had different ideas. However, I spotted what appeared to be the remains of a smokehouse or an outhouse (or something else) and then noticed some ancient rusting farm implements. There were two old and massive horse drawn rakes and if I'd investigated a little further maybe some other equipment but everything was covered in so much overgrowth it was hard to see. That, and something very blue, out of the corner of my right eye caught my attention. Surrounded by viney thorn bushes and trees sat, on her keels, an old 1950s or 1960s motor boat. I'm not an expert but I'm guessing by the placement of the inboard/outboard motor, the obvious design to indicate "I'm built for speed", and the relatively shallow draft, a ski boat. Maybe she's just a general pleasure boat but something about her said, "Come ski with me!". I have absolutely no interest in owning a boat but something about the scene made me feel as though that old boat wanted to be rescued and restored to her former glory as a craft that mastered a lake and gave a water skier a thrill or two on a hot Saturday afternoon.
She's not much to look at now but imagining this design back in the 50s or 60s I can't help but think she was meant for water skiing. I couldn't see any obvious brand markings on her and trying to walk around her (thought not apparent in this photo) was rather difficult with all the shrubby growth. I also really didn't want to disturb any of the moss on the boat or anything about the scene at all. I'm still okay to let my imagination go with it -- it was really a cool find -- right or wrong.
By the time I finished getting my photos of the boat the sun was starting to get low and I wanted to allow myself time to shoot something else if I came across anything else on my way back home. I never did come across anything else on my way back -- at least nothing that I felt worthy of stopping for. My mind kept going back to the Clark house, her boat, what else I might want to try and do. I'll be back there I suspect.
Full resolution photos from this blog will be posted in the next few days from this posting and available in the gallery.
Keywords: Airlie, Clark House, Confederate Veteran, Halifax County, North Carolina, State Supreme Court Justice, Walter Clark
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