“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge,” said Bakunin. Taking a crowbar to the walls of a living room where I’ve spent over half my life feels less like destruction than some kind of past life regression therapy. Each layer of wallpaper represents a different occupant, probably, and I can track changing aesthetic tastes over the course of a century. I can also now hazard a guess about when the windows were put in, based on how many layers their moulding overlaps. And under the repeated prying of the crow, the blank page of the plaster crumbles to reveal the regular ruling of a schoolboy’s notebook.
The lath is attached to thin spacer boards tacked to the original plank shell, which itself retains a layer of thick, 19th-century wallpaper. I can see daylight through the cracks between board and batten. The contracter was imagining two-by-fours, I guess — a regular internal skeleton — and plenty of space between the bones for insulation. But this house was built like an insect, with an exoskelton to hold it all together. It’s nice to imagine that the oak and chestnut planks were milled from trees cut right here on the mountain, but in all likelihood they came from farther to the west or north, beyond the reach of the charcoal cutters for the iron furnaces and forges of the upper Juniata. With a forge right at the bottom of the mountain remaining active until 1850, the hollow probably would’ve had nothing but pole timber in 1865 when the house was built. They called this “Brush Mountain” for a reason.
How the wind must’ve howled through the cracks those first winters after the Civil War! Did they heat with charcoal, I wonder? As a retired forgeman, the first occupant would’ve been most familiar with it. But possibly by then real coal was cheaper, shipped on the new railroad down the Allegheny Front from the newly opened mines to the west.
And now for the ceiling…
UPDATE: Whitewash! We found whitewash on the original ceiling beams! Just like a barn.
Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).