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.
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.
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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.
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* 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.