Ancestral home

Mother sits in lawn chair.

This is the house in rural southwest Georgia that Dard built. Dard Moree*, my great grandfather on my mother’s side, built it around 1890.

It stayed in our family almost a century.

Dard was a farmer, a very wealthy one until the Great Depression. After he died, my grandmother got the place. She married another farmer. We were farmers.

Although I was hatched in Atlanta, I lived here the first six years of my life, and after we moved to Florida we returned regularly to visit, and I spent summers with my grandparents until I graduated from high school.

Yes, my parents, my sister and I lived in the same house as my maternal grandparents for six years. In the late 1940s, my father tried to make it as a short-story writer, and he was fairly successful, but not enough to support a family of four.

Even with his supplementary income from chicken farming. My father had 2,000 chickens at one point. Granddaddy didn’t mess with chickens or pigs. It was mostly cotton, peanuts and some Hereford cattle (beef, not milk) for him.

Mother

The top photo was around 1970. That’s my mother in the yard. She talked like Scarlet O’Hara, but she didn’t think like Scarlet O’Hara.

I come from Southern Lefty stock.

Granddaddy died around 1956, and grandmother continued on alone at the farm till 1965. She owned a chrome-plated, .32-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, and she drove Fords.

(I once shot a very sick cat with that pistol. It died hard, and I felt bad for days.)

When grandmother died, the ancestral home and 500 acres surrounding it went to my mother, who was an only child. My father was 49, and my mother 46. They retired and lived off government subsidies and rentals, never really working another day in their lives.

He died in 1991 at 75. She lasted  till 2009, age 90.

They did renovations to the house, ruining it in my opinion. The covered the fireplaces that had been in every room except the two bathrooms. They didn’t even keep one.

They lowered the ceilings and installed central air and heat. And that big porch you see in the picture did not exist. They added it. That side of the house just had windows. The entrance, out of this photo, was on the right side, facing the road.

My granddaddy used to sit on the original porch, leaning back in a chair in the evenings, smoking a cigarette, facing the road, which was graded dirt lined with ditches. By the time my parents arrived in the late 1960s, the road was asphalt.

The window on the far left was the kitchen. That’s where my grandmother and I sat one night listening to harp music of ghosts. I wrote about that here last year.

On the far side of the house was a large orchard of pecan trees. We never lacked pecans, and I crave hot pecan pie with vanilla ice cream to this day.

A quarter of a mile behind the house was a huge pond full of towering cypress trees where I often rowed a boat in shadows beneath Spanish moss.

My mother lived in the house as a child. There was a rope tied to a high limb of a cypress tree, and she would swing and swing and drop into the dark waters where snakes and snapping turtles swam. My mother was brave — braver than my father.

But that isn’t saying much.

A few miles down the dirt thoroughfare was a crossroads with the name of Red Rock where you’d find a general store and, just across, a red-brick, two-story schoolhouse.

My sister, almost four years older, attended classes there. Years later the school was abandoned, and it sat for decades until one day it was gone.

* * * *

I loved that house, the cypress pond, the fields, the cows, everything, and last saw it in 2001. My parents sold it in the 1980s for a mighty pretty penny, some of which ended up in my pocket, and that’s part of the reason I quit working when I was only 55.

Thanks for providing me a reason to reminisce about it again.

* * * *

* The name’s origin is French, spelled Morée. By the time we Crackers got ahold of it, there was no accent mark, and we pronounced it Mo-ree.

12 thoughts on “Ancestral home”

    1. Ms. Mommy: From where I sit these days, selling it was great. At the time, it disturbed me. I wrote in the post that it was sold in the 1980s, but thinking on it now I am pretty sure it was the late 1970s, during the inflationary Carter years. They (we) really lucked up because within weeks, perhaps days, after closing the sale, the bottom dropped out of the market for that type of property. I’m sure the buyer was kicking himself up and down the road. My parents, on the other hand, were smiling broadly. Me too.

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  1. Very nice. Reminds me of my grandmother’s home in eastern Oklahoma near Ft. Smith AR. I learned much about life sitting with her on the front porch swing in the evenings after “supper.” Did you have thunderstorms and fireflies in the evenings as well?

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    1. Charles: Thunderstorms could come at any time, I recall. Fireflies? Yep. There was a huge pasture across the dirt road that sloped down to a tiny creek. Lots of fireflies in that pasture on summer nights.

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  2. Your reminiscing is a great start to my morning. As always,your prose is word perfect, but my favorite part of the post is the headline photograph. The play of light and shadow on the house with your mother merely a form in the shade is worthy of Andrew Wyeth.

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  3. Sigh… this is what I love reading… Memories of the long-ago made meaningful with the perspective of here and now. Your American south summers spent with grandparents on a farm, a father who wrote short stories, and a mother who was photographed smoking, who packed a chrome-plated .32-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver… that’s a colorful, exotic past in my book. I want to know more! I’ve always maintained that there’s a wonderful book in you … just waiting to come out.

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    1. Ms. Merida: Thanks for the positive feedback. It was not my mother who packed the pistol, however. It was Granny. I inherited that pistol and only got rid of it just before moving below the border.

      Yes, my mother smoked, but not much, and she quit in her 50s. Didn’t seem to have affected her health since she lived much longer, too long, actually.

      My father, who was a boozer for much of his life, did not even drink coffee or tea, and he never smoked at all.

      As for a book coming out of me, it will never happen. I’m too lazy.

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  4. I recently posted a pic of my ancestral home, restored in original style but built in 1893, in Austin TX on Facebook. It is now a historical building, one of 200 that are beyond 100 yrs old in Austin. Now the location, which at the time it was built was on farmland, sits between 5th and 6th Streets, a block off South Lamar and the place to be seen any weekend night. The nightclubs and alternative music scene, of which Austin is a huge venue, have kept the neighborhood alive but have killed the old home place atmosphere. We drove by it a couple of weeks ago to have a look. It is nicely kept from the looks of the outside but I don’t know who lives in it. Across the street is the Treaty Oak where settlers and Indians once sat and smoked the peace pipe to keep the area from becoming another killing field as the wild, wild west of Texas matured. Some fanatic poisoned the tree a couple of decades ago but with an immense amount of intervention from the folks of the State of Texas who wanted to try to save it, it lives once again however it will take some centuries to become the big old tree I played under.

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    1. Carole: I know that area of Austin. And the cretin who poisoned the Treaty Oak should have been tarred and feathered.

      I would like to see Austin again, but God knows if I ever will. I think I was last there in the early 1990s. I’ve been in San Antonio a number of times since but never got up to Austin. Lovely place if distressingly trendy these days.

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  5. Our family homestead has been in the family for five generations, still looks good for being built in the 1850s. My grandfather and father will never sell, too much history on that farm. It will likely be passed on to my brothers and me, although none of us took up farming.

    I also lament some of the “improvements” made to it. They did keep one fireplace. It is a comfort and delight on the cold winter days.

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