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Petrified

Posted by Administrator on Sun, Aug 19 2012 14:56:00

Bev and I bought this house in 1996.  Not long afterward my son Sam helped me replace the front steps.  That day, while digging around underneath the porch, Sam found a piece of petrified wood.  I always thought the process took hundreds or thousands of years, but what we found was unmistakingly rock-like and undeniably in the shape of a fragment of lumber.  There was kind of a pit dug under the porch where Sam found it and we speculated that for years and years and years water had melted off the porch and soaked that piece of wood, drying out each spring to invest it with a few more grams of mineral deposits.

That chunk of wood kept its shape, even its texture, but when it was done, it had an entirely different character.

An ancient word problem asks: “if you had a woolen scarf and it began to unravel one end, and you took the strands and rewove them into the other end, at what point would that scarf be a different one?

The life of this old house is like that hunk of wood and also like that woolen scarf.

Most people would recognize a 1908 photo of the house as ours – it has the same exterior shape (except for the add-on garage and the Moss Creek Suite).  Yes, the color might be different, but its shape is the same.  But at some kind of organic level it has changed.  

It has gone from having no insulation in the walls, to having vermiculite – those nasty blown-in beads; now the vermiculite is gone from almost every wall and ceiling cavity, to be replaced by fiberglass.  Plaster and lathe has been torn down and replaced with sheetrock.  Hundreds and hundreds of square feet of sheetrock.  The post and tube wiring has been replaced by contemporary vinyl clad cables, and many more of them.  The old iron pipes are gone, replaced by PVC and vinyl tubing.  In the walls you’d find CAT 7 cable as long as three football fields and enough RG-56 to circumnavigate a baseball diamond.

The structure of the house is the same and the purpose is (mostly) the same… and so it is the same.  But it isn’t the same too.

Like that woolen blanket, our old house unraveled, over time its innards came out (plaster and lathe, insulation, wire, pipe) to be swapped for something newer that serves the same purpose.  Trim was removed, refinished, and in some cases modified to fit new thermopane windows.  Is it the same?  Yes, but it is differently the same. The room that was once the parlor where the Benham family gathered became a bedroom; now it has a bath attached – and the maid’s room is gone.  The room serves a different purpose, has new wiring and now plumbing, some trim from a different mansion, a newer floor, and a gas insert in the fireplace.  But it’s the same room, and yes, it’s a different room.

If it could speak, the Benham’s home of 1908 would tell stories about its family: Harry and Carrie, and Harry Jr. and Isabelle.  It would talk about that new invention the aero-plane, Carrie’s many petticoats and her bustle.  It might tell of young Harry and his buddies building forts on the lump of land across the street that later became known as Hideout Hill.  It seems even location names unravel – Andy, a current neighbor boy, never heard it called Hideout Hill.  In 2012 our talking house might describe my grandson Jaden’s PS – a handheld gaming device with two video screens, or the secure WiFi system with a hardware firewall that our Harry installed over Christmas.

 

The same house?  A different house?  The coal burning, black smoke belching octopus of a boiler was converted to a gas powered boiler, but now has been replaced by a forced air system (heat and air conditioning).  But the house is still cozy and warm in the winter.  The narrow kitchen with a countertop deficit now has square yards of granite wonderfulness.  The same?  Different?      

The mom of the house was Carrie, today it is Bev, with perhaps more than a dozen moms in between.  Mom Carrie and Mom Bev both gave birth to a son named Harry, married a skinny mustached type ‘A’ husband, and rightfully took great pride in their house.  But Carrie lived and died at a time when few women were in the workforce, and Bev’s a hospital administrator.  Bev cooks with clean burning gas but Carrie had to find someone to chop firewood.  Carrie’s house was at the edge of town, the same house, now Bev’s, is considered to be in the middle of Sheridan.

Bev and I have slept in the African Room, the one that was Carrie and Harry’s Master Bedroom.  Have our conversations about the kids, the business, the neighborhood echoed theirs?  Did Carrie remind Harry she’d not be home to cook dinner because she would be with the church ladies, as Bev has reminded me?  Did Harry ever hug his spouse in that room and tell her “she’s the best thing that ever happened to him”?  The night before Harry headed back east on his September 1926 trip to Tennessee, did they talk late into the night like it was the last time? Most certainly it was, for he died in on September 26 in Columbia, Tennessee.

So Sam’s shard of wood was petrified.  But this house?  Its alive.

I think our visitors would agree. 

Upside Down and Downside Up

Posted by Administrator on Mon, Aug 13 2012 11:20:00

Bev and I moved to Sheridan in 1990.  It took me a while to understand the economics of this rural/energy/tourism-focused state.  

1958 Plymouth

My first clue should have been that old station wagon -  a 1958 Plymouth.  I noticed it putt-putt-putting around town as if it had sticky valves.  It also needed rings and about a full case of Bondo.

Now I lived in a station wagon for part of a summer after college, so I could tell by looking inside this ol’ wreck it was the “Plymouth  Hotel”.  An unrolled sleeping bag, a ratty old pillow, boxes for clothes and a picnic cooler were all the evidence I needed.

The clue of Wyoming’s economics wasn’t inside though.  I found it on the tailgate, where a peeling and sun-faded bumper sticker said:

“Dear Lord, please send another boom, I promise I won’t @*!% this one away”

Later on, I learned that Wyoming often lags behind the economic ups and down ’s of most of the fifty states.  We’re an exporter of energy, so when the price is down the rest of the country likes it, but we don’t, and vice versa.  An upsurge in energy demands across the nation creates a delayed boom in energy development in Wyoming.  But booms don’t last, they turn into busts which raise unemployment.  That’s when Wyoming ‘s community colleges see their highest enrollment, as unemployed workers try to learn marketable skills in a changing world.

When winter weather turns cold and nasty for a long time across the US, we sell more coal and gas and oil.  That’s good for Wyoming.  When winter weather turns cold and nasty for a long time in Wyoming, cattle freeze, and calving season is a disaster.   That’s bad for Wyoming.

A very deep snow pack in our mountains is good for Wyoming – it is the antidote to our too frequent droughts.  But it is bad for many towns down river – because our rivers, the Yellowstone, the Powder, the North Platte, the Bighorn and Tongue feed the Missouri and eventually the Mississippi River.  The floods from our snow melt are legendary.

So upside is down and downside is up.

Where Did You Go, Harry T?

Posted by Administrator on Sun, Jul 29 2012 12:27:00

Harry Towner Benham was born in 1908, the year his mom and dad (Carrie and Harry C. Benham) finished the big house on Thurmond Street. (This isn't him below but a boy of a similar age).old photo of a small boy approx 1915

1908 was the year Baden-Powell started the Boy-Scouts, Connie Mack sold the pitcher Rube Waddell to the St Louis Browns for $5,000, Oklahoma became a state, Nathan Stubblefield patented Wireless Radio Broadcasting, and the first production Model T was built.

And oh yes, Mayor Mark Breith stood before the Cincinnati city council and announced that, "women are not physically fit to operate automobiles" (these facts courtesy of history-dot-com).

We’ve named a guest room after Harry (and our own Harry, born eight decades later).  I can imagine him growing up in the spaciou Victorian home and in that neighborhood.  Undoubtedly he played on the hill just outside his back door and watched new houses being built on Residence Hill while hoping a boy his age would move in.

When Harry was nine, Linden School was built at the bottom of ‘his’ hill.  The school served the city for seven decades.  So Harry had the town’s best sledding hill in his back yard, and the worst excuse for being late for school.    The 1930 census shows him living in the same house with his mom.  By this time he was the man  of the house, as his dad, Harry C. died in 1926).

I’ve tracked Harry and his mom to Los Angeles, where she lived with him even after he married Isabelle.  In 1936 Harry lived at 1157 E. 20th in Los Angeles, CA.

But then, the trail grows cold.

So where did you go Harry T.?  What was the rest of your life like?  Did you have kids and grandkids - do they have stories of you?   

And Harry, are there any photos of this great old house on Residence Hill in a grandson’s attic?

The Ladies Shall Be at the House On Wednesday

Posted by Administrator on Wed, Jul 25 2012 16:59:00

article from newspaperWhat was life like on Residence Hill on the early days?  It seems that Mrs. Carrie Benham, of 450 S. Thurmond (the current home of the Residence Hill Bed & Breakfast) sometimes hosted her church group.  Perhaps in this way she was like her husband Harry, quite possibly both were involved in their community. 

All within that one generation, hardworking families became Sheridan’s leaders.  Some business leaders started out pushin' cattle as John Kendrick did.  Others hauled and sold lumber, as Harry Benham did.  In that one generation Sheridan grew from a few log cabins to a bustling town. 

So on May 10th 1910, the Ladies Circle of the Congregational Church Ladies met a Carrie’s house.   I wonder what they talked about? I'm blogging in the expanded kitchen, and the door to the great room is half open.  Do you suppose, if I listen carefully, I can hear the echos of their voices?

We're talking bagels!

Posted by Administrator on Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:45:00

We’re talking… homemade!photo of bagels

OK. So it is 5:30 am and the coffee is ready, and I can smell it. I love coffee maker timers, they make getting out of bed in the morning just a bit more tolerable.

But the next smell that gets me going is that of Bev’s fresh bagels.

Seriously, this amazing woman makes bagels – nearly every day. Fresh, hot, tasty. These guys fight you at every bite – not like those store bought mass produced, bread like knock-offs.

These are the real deal.

Garlic, poppy seed, plain, cheese, sesame seed, jalapeno, cinnamon…

Yeah.

With cream cheese and fresh coffee. We’re talking bagels!

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