The Old Chimney’s Story

old chimney

The other morning I was just getting back home and was unloading the kids from the van when I heard the sound of motors and voices coming from behind me in the driveway, just behind the house, out of my sight. I got the kids out and cautiously walked over to where the voices were coming from.

I looked around the corner and saw a man sitting on a running 4-wheeler beside another 4-wheeler which was also running but with nobody on it. I walked up to him sternly, arms crossed. I’m sure he could read from the sharp expression on my face that I was not happy that they were there. He motioned to his buddy, who was on my front door step knocking, to come back over.

They turned the 4-wheelers off and quickly explained who they were and why they were there. Both men were in their 50’s. One was tall and thin, and the other was chubby and dressed very sloppy. His shirt was almost all the way unbuttoned, exposing a grossly hairy chest. I wasn’t sure what to think of them at first, and was very much guarded- keeping my distance.

The chubby one spoke first (in a very country accent), extending his hand with a smile, telling me his name and where he lived (somewhere behind us). He told me who his “kin” were around the area (as if I would know who he was once he explained who he was related to). Then the thinner man did the same thing. Of course, I don’t know anybody around here, and I sure didn’t know who these guys were.

Now, we live way back in the woods. Our driveway is almost a mile long. The fact that these men had trespassed onto my property, on a week day at a time when nobody should have been home made me very uncomfortable. They definitely should not have been there. And the fact that I was alone with my two little ones really made Mama Bear inside of me on the defense.

I think the men could see this. They started saying that they didn’t know anybody lived out here. The thinner man even said, “I know people who live out this far get kinda nervous when other people just come up to their door.” To which I replied, “If I had been inside already I would have met you at the door with my shotgun.” And he quickly threw up his hands and laughed nervously saying, “Oh, no… you wouldn’t have to do that!”

So they hastily explained what they were doing on my land. The heavy set one told me that the land which we now live on used to belong to his great great grandparents. Pointing into the woods he said, “There’s an old chimney over there that I wanted to show my buddy here that used to be my family’s old homestead.”

Once he said this I knew I could believe them. For indeed, beside our house hidden in the woods is what remains of an old log home. Not much is left of it, just an old chimney made from handmade bricks and flat stones, and the rocks which once made up the foundation. Nobody would have known that unless they’d been there before.

He told me that it had been 20 years since he had been on this land, and he really would like to visit it. I decided I’d let the men go into the trees to see the old home again. Besides, I’ve been fascinated by that old chimney, and what it’s story was and I was anxious to ask him questions about his family who once lived there.

Me and the kids kept our distance as we followed the men to the chimney. The two men talked to me the whole way. The one guy told me all he knew about his family who once lived in that very home.

It had been built by hand back in the 1800’s. Where my house is now used to be their field. They just lived in that little home and farmed the land. There is a really big hole in the ground a few yards from the home site. We walked over to it. I’ve been so curious about it, and tried looking it up online but could never figure out exactly what it was. When I asked the man he said, “Oh, this here was their root cellar.” He told me that it used to have steps going down into it, and a roof over it. That was where they stored their milk, cream, and veggies.

I really was intrigued by it all.

He said, “I could tell you a story about this old house…” And he went on to tell me that his great great grandmother who had lived there had a rocking chair in that house that she used to always rock in. As she got very old she began to lose her mind and just sat rocking in that chair all the time. Well, the family claims that after she passed away they would occasionally walk into the home to find that rocking chair still rocking, all by itself.

What a great story to go along with such an interesting old home site! I asked him if he had any pictures of the home before it all fell down. He said his family might have one somewhere. I would love to see it!

Me and the kids have visited that old site many times. Jada loves it when I tell her stories about how people back then used to live: without a fridge or stove, without an indoor bathroom or air conditioner, what they used to eat and how they lived. I’m glad that we know a little more of it’s history now.

Well, the men didn’t stay long. But they did have a request. They wondered if they could come back with a metal detector and go around the home to see if they could find anything. I told them that we had already tried and found nothing. I really didn’t want them coming back, but didn’t know how to say it politely, so I told them that I didn’t think my father would be okay with them coming out there, since this really was his land.

As they got back on their 4-wheelers they said, “Well, you ask your Daddy if he minds if we come back out here with metal detectors. We’ll come back soon and see what he’s said.”

Great.

I really don’t want them coming back. It was nice talking to them and finding out a little history, it really was, but I definitely don’t feel comfortable all the way out here by myself with two strange men walking around in my woods. When they come back my answer will be “no”. (Hubby and Dad were both pretty upset that the men were here.) Maybe they’ll get my hints and not come back… somehow I doubt that.

Though I was uneasy with the men being here, I am glad to know more about this land we live on. I think it’s so cool that we are trying to get back to living the way that these people lived 200 years ago in the very same place. And now I have a great story about the old home site to pass on to my kids!


Kendra
About Kendra 1104 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

11 Comments

  1. I know it’s year 2000+ now, but when I go down home, I always use my maiden name. My family has been in the area for almost 200 years, and giving the locals a name they recognize doesn’t hurt a bit. I get regaled with stories new and OLD from the folks who have never left the area. I think one of the funniest is that a relative of my mom’s and a relative of my dad’s lived across the river from each other. When big rains changed the course of the river, they would argue over ownership of certain areas of the land. Indeed they would stand across the river from each other and take potshots with their pistols. No-one was ever hurt, (thank goodness the river was too wide) but it’s a story for the books. During the Revolutionary War, again, relatives of my parents fought on opposite sides. The Kings Mountain battle had them facing off against each other. It’s funny how families can cross paths with distance and time. My folks have been married 69 years now themselves.

  2. Hi, I just discovered your site, and since this is an old post perhaps no one will even see this. I just wanted to add my two cents.

    Those fellows sound legit. Telling you about their kin is kind of like giving you their references. You would do well to learn who is around you. If you are hospitable to these folks, who are you neighbors after all, you will become a part of the history of the area too. Someday your kids may be in a similar position, wanting to see the “old homestead”, and someone new may need their “references”.

    I left home and moved away many tears ago from an area of Appalachia where I can trace my family roots, in numerous branches, back to the early 1800s, and in some cases, back to the early 1700s when they were the first white settlers, and married into the local native tribes. In all that time, we have had numerous “homesteads” and that history in many cases resembles the old chimney. To you it is a curiousity, to me those things are family.

    I have lived in similar out of the way places always, and when I was the newcomer, making up with the locals who had history, did not mean I had visitors pestering me. It meant they were accepting me into the history of the area. I was growing my connection, and community.

    I, through a set of circumstances, have lately found myself back in the area I grew up in, after several decades and a couple of different lives. Though I am an old man, I have some younger children. I delight in showing them the places and the stories of ther grand parents and great- great- great-… you get the idea. Occasionally I run into a current “landowner”, and generally, I can find a connection somewhere that makes us sociable. “Whose boy are you?” is all the ID that matters in the backwoods.

    By the way, if those fellows are genuine, and I believe they are, they too have a shotgun behind the door at home, and probably would not have been out on a scout without. If they meant you any harm, they would have already done it. They will understand your caution with strangers, but their ID was out for you.

    • Dave,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. It’s funny how time changes one’s perspective. When I wrote this article I was a city girl new to the country and was not too familiar with “country ways”. Now that we’ve lived here for about 7 years, I definitely see the situation in a new light and would no doubt have approached the men a little differently, and with a tad bit less trepidation. In hind sight, I do wish I’d asked there where they live and gotten to know them a little better as neighbors. We’ve learned to value relationships with those around us, and would welcome the opportunity to chat with these men again. 🙂

  3. What is the update on this?? Did you let them come back?? I would love to know more about the land I live on and it does sound like kin is the key around where you live. I was born and raised in the south, but not rural. Doesn’t matter though, it would be a big deal to get to know people.

  4. i love to go metal detect old properties and getting permission is the hardest part. i think they were being extremely honest in their intentions, but certainly understand telling them only to come back when your husband is around. oh and there is a good chance they know of some story of their grandparents hiding huge stack s of money somewhere near there, so go out with that detector before they come back and get the good stuff first.

  5. I too would welcome them back at a time when your hubby was around. Think about all the history you could learn and they could preserve- it would be worth it just to get a picture of the old homestead.

  6. I am a ‘midwest’ country girl… I don’t think I would want the men looking around while I was home alone, but if my husband was home, no problem… I would just give them my hubbies cell number and have them call him to set up a time to come out. I LOVE history and would relish the opportunity to learn more about our ‘homestead’!

  7. I agree with Jill, maybe they wont want to come back often, Im a pretty private person myself. But girl, youre in the south now! who youre kin to makes all the difference! I guess Im just used to that way of life. I guess its like that in all small towns. Whats bad is when youre kin to people in a small town that are so notorious you know you have to play dumb if someone inquires about it! ( true story here)

  8. Maybe it’s because I’m born and raised on a small farm out in the middle of nowhere, but I think that these men were pretty harmless. I agree that I probably would have been uncomfortable alone with them there, but if they want to come back that badly, perhaps offer to let them come back when your husband or father can be there with you.

    Good Luck!

  9. That would make me so nervous! My family is from West Virginia, so I’m familiar with that “backwoods” culture. You might ask your neighbors if they know the kin those men were talking about. We were always very suspicious of people on our land until they told us who their kin were and where they lived, so I think that’s pretty normal. My parents knew mostly everyone in the area, though, so it was usually pretty easy to figure out if the strangers were “okay” or not. I’d be nervous that those men didn’t take your hint to leave… I think the shotgun at the door wouldn’t be a bad idea, but maybe I’m just paranoid!

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