Like A Steel Trap!

H.A. Espy (r.) circa 1902 (no house extension to north)

Our house didn’t always extend north along Territory Road the way it does now, but I can’t remember when the garage and “work room” were added on.  I think when I was very young, there was an enclosed woodshed with a dirt floor just beyond the kitchen door.  I have a vague memory of my grandfather chopping kindling there (for my grandmother’s wood cookstove?) and I remember, also dimly, that one winter we’d get a whiff of skunk from the Mama and six babies that lived out there behind the woodpile.

“They were always very polite,” my grandmother would recall.  “They never caused us any problems and we were happy to offer them some shelter.”  I don’t know if I’d feel that welcoming.  Just the other day, we set out a few mouse traps in that area after seeing some ‘evidence’ that little furry creatures had nibbled through the bag of chicken feed.  Of course, nowadays, that’s the laundry room and pantry with access out to the kitchen garden to the east; the roller door on the street side is seldom used.

Espy House, 1925 (Note rain barrels on roof as well as extension to north)

Old photos show that a garage was added north of the woodshed — probably in the twenties, and I think it was probably in the fifties that the whole area was given a cement floor and was extended to become a storage room as well as a garage.  When my folks moved in, my dad was still manufacturing plastic souvenirs and soap dishes (marketed to CostPlus and other stores in CA and, locally, to Marsh’s Free Museum) and that area became his work space.  Hence, the name “work room” though my mother and her siblings would continue to call the entire enclosure to the north of the kitchen, “the woodshed.”  Some habits never change.

We just call it “The Back Forty” and, mostly, try to ignore it.  Except in a fit of organizing.  Like yesterday.  We decided to start with the accumulation of dishes, appliances, vases, candles (yes! an entire shelf!), baskets, pots and pans – you name it!  Mostly household detritus that seems to multiply of its own accord.  In a Good Will purge, we filled a couple of cardboard boxes before we decided to call it quits.  “Tomorrow is another day,” we said.

Our House, by Marta, 2018

In the process, we found three items that we don’t recognize.  Not ours.  Not my folks/.  Not my grandparents’.  I didn’t have a clue but Nyel had a name to go with each:  the spoon from Sandy, the plate from Patricia, and the little pitcher from Jon and Pat.  Brought, perhaps, for a potluck or a party and not retrieved.  I took pictures of each and sent them to the suspects.  Two of the three have answered and report that Nyel is absolutely right.  The man has a mind like a steel trap!  If only he’d been part of our lives in the twenties and the fifties, we could figure out when the woodshed moved north!

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