Living in the White House

Living in a white house is like wearing a white shirt to a cookout….its going to get dirty, something dripped on it, and eventually things are going to start looking dull.

The White House has been quite dull for quite a while, its last paint job being well over 10 years ago. After countless storms, winter slush, and a particularly nasty hail storm – that really did a number on our cars – it was in desperate need of a touch up.

Pre-PaintingSo this summer, we scrapped and painted the old white house, and let me tell ya – it’s looking good these days.

My Poppaw is a firm believer that everything – and I literally do mean everything – can be done with the aid of a tractor. So instead of using a good old trusty ladder….we used a front end loader.

Just beam me up Stephen!

I, however, found a much more suitable use for the tractor. It’s surprisingly comfortable and cozy….as long as you don’t mind getting red dirt all over your clothes.

In reality, I only spent about half an hour making myself at home in my new favorite nap spot. While Stephen and Poppaw were busy painting the back side of the house, I worked on scrapping the front bannisters.

Let me go ahead and say….any paint scraping by hand ends up being a lot of work with very little benefit to show for your efforts. Plus, you end up with a load of paint chips stuck in your hair and on your face.

So why waste all that time scraping away? Why not just use a common heat and chemical paint remover? Well, there are two really good reasons.

One – we didn’t want to light our house up like a bonfire on a chilly October night. After much research, we discovered that quite a few common chemical paint removers are highly flammable, and solid wood homes of a certain age – like ours – tend to catch on fire.

Two – our chickens do not, sadly, lay golden eggs. The non-flammable water based paint removers are a bit pricey, and were way outside of the budget. We loved our house enough to spruce it up and make sure that we didn’t burn it down in the process, but not enough to go broke on.

The old white house looks a world better these days – almost like a new. There are still some needed repairs to the front porch, but its nice knowing that our major summer project is out of the way and that we are no longer embarrassing the neighbors.

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Farmhouse Haunting II

I should have knocked on wood.  Lo and behold, a few days after I wrote a post about ghosts, I had my first ghostly encounter. Of course, it was at night, which seems to be a prerequisite for paranormal experiences—at least according to horror movies and ghost hunting TV shows. What time of night it was exactly, I’m not sure, but I woke up to the sound of laughing.

The laughing wasn’t the ghostly part, but it was strange. Natalie occasionally talks in her sleep, and she was apparently laughing in her sleep then. But instead of her normal laugh, it was a child-like giggle. I asked her if was she was having a funny dream, and she responded, obviously still asleep, with the following: “I’m counting without numbers.”

“Okay, that was kind of funny,” I thought, and knowing she was so averse to mathematics, it seemed reasonable to believe she was dreaming about bypassing numbers. I should have gone back to sleep.

Instead, I rolled over and opened my eyes, and what I saw was an old woman standing beside the bed in front of Natalie. The woman just stood there. I couldn’t see anything except her outline and silhouette, in a smoky-gray color. There was no detail to her face or texture to her clothing, but her outline resembled that of a woman in a traditional dress with an apron tied around her waist, with her hair pinned up in a bun (like Granny, for lack of better example, from The Beverly Hillbillies). A few seconds later, the figure just dissipated.

For the two of three seconds I saw or imagined the figure, I didn’t feel scared or threatened, and the woman didn’t look real enough for me to wonder if an intruder was indeed in the house. It was just strange and surreal. Eventually, I closed my eyes and refused to open them again. The next morning, I asked Natalie if she had any dreams. To my surprise, she said she had a funny dream, but couldn’t remember what it was about.

Why a ghost would appear next to Natalie while she was dreaming a funny dream, I don’t know. Maybe the ghost has a sense of humor. This could explain why she appeared a few days after I wrote about never experiencing ghosts in the house. Or, maybe I had been thinking too much about ghosts and imagined the whole episode. Whether or not it was a figment of my imagination, the woman’s figure had a striking resemblance to  Natalie’s great-great grandmother Ponola. Thankfully, Ponola seems like a very pleasant lady in the pictures of I’ve seen of her.

Of course, we’ll keep you posted if we have any other paranormal activity.

Ponola seems happy enough

Farmhouse Haunting

Occasionally, after people learn that Natalie and I live in an old farmhouse, the topic of conversation turns to ghosts. Apparently, ghosts and farmhouses are closely linked in people’s minds. To date, Natalie and I have never experienced any supernatural behavior in the house, except for that of Chip Coffey (if you’ve never watched Chip Coffey, check out some episodes of Paranormal State or Physic Kids—you’ll laugh.)

Occasionally, the house does smell like Natalie’s great-grandmother, Vicie, or tobacco smoke, yet no one’s smoked in the house for decades. Although the house  creaks and cracks at night, I no longer attribute these noises to dead folks. Still, the noises can be a bit spooky. For me, it didn’t help knowing that Natalie’s great-grandfather was “laid out” in our bedroom. Back then, since they didn’t have funeral homes for visitations, a body was laid out in the home till the funeral. We’ve had quite a few family members laid out in our house…..uncle Abner, however, was resigned to the front porch, that is a funny story for another post.

Great-great-great grandpa Joe Camp standing beside the coffin of his brother Abner

Perhaps the saddest death that occurred in our house was that of Claude, the twelve-year-old son of Natalie’s great-great grandparents, Lawson and Ponola. He died at night of an unknown ailment that caused “flying rheumatism,” or severe pain that “flies” from joint to joint. The very next day, his grieving mother gave birth in the house to another son, Burl. I can’t imagine the emotions that family must have experienced in such a short time.

An addition from Natalie:

Though many people cringe at the number of people that have been laid out here, and that at least one person has died in the house – it really doesn’t bother me. My Poppaw and his father were just two of the many babies born in this house, my mom spent time here as a child, I used to play in the back yard when I was little. This house has LIVED, it’s seen life through multiple generations, joyous times, sad times, hard times. This house’s story is so complete, yet so circular and never ending, and I take comfort in the fact that it’s been here all this time observing, watching us change – we’re all so different, yet still so much the same.