Past The Dead Cow a County Spell

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When I finally accepted the inevitable and moved in with Jon a dozen years ago, it was not unlike some perverse twist on the “Beverly Hillbillies” saga. Jon lived out in the country, in the hinterlands of outer “Raleighwood” … and, as I used to joke, at the end of the second dirt drive just past the dead cow.

That auspicious Sunday still gives me alternating guffaws, at the situation’s mere outrageousness, with shrieks at the abject horror and the rekindled stress. But with “both” echoing in what soon would be my memory, my caravan arrived at the secluded Marklewood. Jon maneuvered a large moving van while others navigated six carloads of clothing, perishables, and the more precious of flowering urns. 

I had always been a “city boy”, usually living in the thick of things, especially when I lived in New York or Boston. Even in Greensboro, from where I was now relocating, my ‘20’s house was only eight short blocks from the slowly-throbbing heart of the city. I knew better than to presume that any transition I was now undertaking would be easy, stress-free, or rapid.

Of course, in all the many days and nights I had spent at Jon’s, I rarely caught glimpse of any neighbors. Yes, I heard engines rev, dogs bark … and the melodic chimes of some ice cream truck further down the road a spell! Yes, I adopt colloquialisms speedily as co-dependent children from a linguistic, yet dysfunctional family often do! (I can still hear my father’s trained and perfect resonant pitch wrapped around a “howdy” or two.)

There was an eclectic mix of homes in the vicinity: small, depression-era cottages; ante-bellum farmhouses with significant acreage; mid-century brick ranches; and a few grand early Victorian country houses with stately landscaping. My curiosity drifted toward the few of what I prefer call “portable bungalows”, the iconic Southern mobile homes. I was surprised that Jon’s house stood apart from all the other local structures … quite literally. Nestled in the woods about a “holler and a half” from the road stood what was once a large barn and converted to a small house in the ‘30’s.

Marklewood, which I would later christen Jon’s house out of fondness and irony, is modest but teeming with charm: a hand-hewn staircase, clever and oddly-placed built-ins and niches, and both an upstairs and a downstairs sunroom. I have always been able to effortlessly touch the ceilings, but generally make no attempt to do so. Missing are the little structural extras such as closets, kitchen counters, a front door. However, I never allow such minutia to strain my joy, well at least not on precipitation-free weekends.

The next few days were arduous and stressful as we unloaded and carried inside my lifetime’s ten rooms of acquired furniture, accessories, Persian rugs. In the tradition of my mother’s family, I had acquired many, many collections: notably my books, quirky art, and porcelain grotesques. I mention those three specific collections because it was the very transition to this house that made me at once realize I had grossly over-accumulated and created thus many specific challenges. But, at that very point in time, it didn’t “make no never mind” (as they say cheekily in the South). It was simply more important to get everything first indoors, as providence would surely later guide each item to its fitting place.

It took three of us two full days to unload that truck and assemble a modicum of order within the house. It took at least a month to get everything neatly tucked away. And it took probably another six months to find everything again! Organization itself was an arduous process that took over five years to achieve.

Before long, however, the novelty and freshness of the situation had worn off. I had abandoned comparisons and nostalgia as, frankly, my life in bigger cities no longer had bearing on the present.

I became oblivious to the dusty dirt roads and the inconvenience of shopping for provisions, and learned to savor the sounds. There was always a chirp, chortle, rustle, or snap emanating from somewhere in the horizon.  And I now relish those intimate sounds of nature and find that there is more life swirling around me than there ever was when I lived “downtown”!

Of course, I wince when I hear Bachman-Turner Overdrive tunes echoing from down the road, but that rarely lasts long as the folks out here go to bed rather early, I presume.

That’d be early except on Friday nights — such as tonight. The Raleigh Speedway is four miles away and I can sit in the sunroom, nursing an iced cappuccino, and hear the dragsters and motorists clock their laps down the road a county spell. It’s a comforting sound that I anticipate each spring and would certainly miss, should we ever leave Marklewood.

In that way it is not unlike those city noises I first missed twelve short years ago, when I mistakenly felt it was all too quiet here. I savor the stillness and serenity, as well as the remarkable absence of commercial signage, tooting truck horns, or an illuminated sky in the horizon.

Incidentally, my sense of directions out here in the hinterlands has finally been honed to both make sense and be direct. However, my surround has made me creative in citing landmarks. You can add to the “dead cow” Ye Olde Bait Shoppe (forgive me for romanticizing), the lakeside grist mill, and my favorite: the Mobile Home Estates a few miles away.

Yes, this is indeed Marklewood and it is my home.

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