The sharecropper cabin

The cabin was not intrinsically part of the real estate transaction, but it was nonetheless there, and worthy of investigation.  Our counterparty offered to “dozer” it for $5K but we didn’t take the offer.  Instead we decided to clean it out, rid it of pests, and keep it from falling down. There does not appear to be much historical preservation going on in the Alabama hinterlands.  I am not sure why, but have hypothesized that there is a sense perhaps of wanting to forget the recent and not-so-recent past.  This has nothing to do with race relations or the larger sweep of American political history, but more to do with a sense of wanting to “catch up” with late 20th century American popular culture; perhaps a sense of embarrassment at the backwardness of things in rural Alabama in the 60’s and 70’s.  I don’t know.  Perhaps the kids moved away and didn’t want to look in the rear-view mirror.  But lest I be misunderstood I acknowledge my patronizing tone.  It is not intended, but words fail under the burden.  This is only an hypothesis, and we have the utmost respect for the hardships endured by those who farmed this property while we watched Bonanza and ate store-bought ice cream.  If anything, we are in awe of those who went before us here.  This includes the stone-age denizens who have left their traces about, which we have recently discovered.  We will eventually visit Horseshoe Bend National Park, not too far South of Level Road, the Cabin’s address, where Andrew Jackson-led troops killed the most indigenous in a single battle.   This is not a value-laden moral observation, but just a statement of fact.  We weren’t there, and it happened a long time ago.  We expect though, as in the nearby community of Louina, (Indian curse; European settlement disappears; rumors of buried gold) that much of spiritual significance will be about for the observant.

The cabin has no indoor plumbing.  It was powered at some point for illumination and an electric stove to boil the water to can the vegetables and fruit grown on the property. From the documents we have recovered this was apparently an on-going business.  Credit was extended and meticulous records of payment or non-payment were kept. There is a still-viable dug well outside the kitchen.   Carry Water.  Literally.  I have drawn at about one gallon per 2-3 minutes, roughly.  I was in fact measuring it because we have so little time that I had to cease re-filling the rain barrel (from which we borrowed water for our plantings) at 9:30 A.M.  in order to commence loading the truck to return to the motel to shower and check out by 11.

An outhouse stands about fifty yards from the back doorstep.  (The concept of outhouse is vaguely romantic – we think of half-moons carved into the doors, L’il Abner and so forth — until the black widows, snakes, wasps, rain, snow, and other assorted impediments are factored into the necessary equation.) It’s a simple wood frame and roofing-steel structure of no architectural significance.  But we empathize with those who took that long walk with the temperature below freezing, or in the 90’s, sick with flu or worse.

We have contracted to have the outhouse razed, and the steel recycled.  The wood framing removed.   I have recently proven Biotoi in the field:  NATO-developed, with corn-starch fully-biodegradable waste bags, for those times when delay is not an option. Continue reading