What is it about these old places that causes you to stop and reflect. The questions “What happened here?” “Who lived here?” “Why did they walk away?” and countless others immediately spring forth to the curious mind. How many stories are untold about those who lived and loved and died here.
The air of desolation around the buildings makes it difficult to see that at one time this must have been a fairly prosperous place. At least for the standards of the time anyway. In the distance are green fields and tree-lined creeks that say there is water nearby, so they could get in a hay crop. That meant they probably had cattle. They needed to enlarge the original building and even if it was an adobe add-on it meant that things were good enough to warrant that.
The old 1938 Chevy in the yard brings more questions. That was a pretty pricey vehicle when it was new. It was one of those huge cars that they called a ‘Camel back’ because of the big trunk lid, kind of like a lady’s bustle, on the rear of the car that gave it an imposing air. Why did they quit driving it? How long were they there before they bought it, or did they drive to this spot in it when they bought the place from the old folks that homesteaded it and couldn’t make a go of it anymore. If they left why didn’t they drive off in it, or did something strange and terrible like the influenza come through and take the whole family out. The neighbors would probably shun the place if that happened. That could account for the leaving of something as valuable as that car behind. Or possibly they couldn’t afford or even get tires for it. There was a war coming on and when it hit there weren’t any tires to get. They were rationed. By the time the war was over the car had fallen into ruin, the engine rusted shut, the mice haven eaten all the wiring, there was so much damage that it didn’t make it, so maybe that beautiful old car just sat and slowly came apart. Like their lives did.
Who ever built the place knew a little something about building. The knee braces that help support the roof rafters were put there by somebody that knew about dead weight loads that the buildup of snow on the roof causes. The winters here could be long and full of peril to the inexperienced. Lots of outbuildings simply collapsed under the weight of a winter full of snow.
The weather played a big part in the lives of these folks. The endless wind blowing across these plains and its ceaseless buffeting of man and beast, has caused the dark side of a few of those imprisoned here by their ties to the land and family, to cross over into that place where insanity rules and do terrible things to their loved ones and themselves. Sometimes whole families were lost. It is true that the wind can make you crazy.
There must have been times though, hopefully many times, where the house was filled with laughter. Light from the newest coal oil lamps direct from Sears and Roebuck spilling gaily out of the windows, the sounds of a Victrola escaping to spread across the darkened yard until it faded away or was swept off to who knows where by the wind. Kids laughing and shrieking while getting stories read to them about faraway places and impossible creatures having exciting adventures. The good smells of cookies being baked and dishes clattering in the sink as mom and the oldest daughter set the kitchen right. All of the sights and sounds of a house loved and well cared for by those who lived there. There had to have a balance between the good stories and the bad. Otherwise it’s just too depressing to think about.
Now due to events we’ll never know about the place has fallen to rack and ruin. Time has taken its toll and the house has reached a point where it is unlikely to ever be brought back to a livable state. Eventually it will collapse under the winter snows or be blown down in one of the gale force storms that sweep over the plains taking it secrets and it stories and its history with it. Sad as that may be it is part of the daily life out here on the plains of Montana. Just down the road aways there is a new house going up. Life starts afresh and another story is begun. Hopefully they will be good stories.