Recently, I inherited a small family farm originally belonging to my great grandfather. It’s where I grew up…or rather spent my life until I turned eighteen. I didn’t really grow up until I was in my forties. My wife might even suggest the event has yet to happen.
The property has a small creek and several old buildings, in addition to a newer house. The old log barn and the “big house”, part of the original house where my great grandfather and great grandmother raised their family, still stand. Historically, there is nothing particularly noteworthy about these old buildings to anyone outside my family. To me, they represent a large part of my past, of where I came from.
I used some of this history in my novel, Extinction. Jason’s memories of his time spent playing along the little creek came from my memories. Exploring caves, building castles and forts for waging war against unnumbered foes in the hayloft were a part of my childhood and happened in this old hand-hewed log barn. The pond Jason jogged around is the same one where I spent many hours fishing, swimming and skipping rocks. William’s memory in the smoke house was based upon my early childhood memories…including the part about his cutting his finger. As you can tell by reading Extinction, I love this place and have such fond memories of it.
As I look at the old buildings, I don’t see them as they now sit—old run-down shacks that most people would put a match to. I see my memories. My childhood. My history. Five generations growing up surrounded by family and love. I see the sixth generation, still too young to understand the meaning of this place, where they, too, will play in the creek, explore new worlds in the woods and hayloft, fish, swim and skip rocks on the pond.
One of my new building projects is to repair/restore the structural integrity of these bits of family history. In the ‘old house” to bring new life to the tongue and groove board walls, to the pegged window sashes, the wooden floors. To make stable the log walls of the barn. For hay bales to once again fill the loft. For memories to extend to at least one more generation.
This project is not a project I expect completed quickly. It is a labor of love, of history, with a little bit of insanity thrown in for good measure.