It used to be the woodshed…

Jul 10, 2013 | 2 comments

R.H. Espy, 1917

R.H. Espy, 1917

The scariest part of our house is the large area between our pantry/laundry room and the garage.  We refer to it variously as “the north forty,” “the work room,” or “the woodshed.”  Each of those names has some meaning and exactly what it is called depends mainly upon the mood of the speaker.

That it is north of the house and is vast and is one of those out-of-sight-out-of-mind areas probably accounts for “the north forty” designation.  That those inside work projects that overflow the garage take place there, accounts for my father and Nyel referring to it as “the work room.”  That it is an extension of the area of the house that began as an enclosed woodshed explains why my mother and her siblings always called it by that name, even though it hasn’t stored wood since the 1940s.

Although the memory is misty, I do remember the woodshed.  What I remember mostly is that it had a hard-packed dirt floor and a big round chopping block with my grandfather’s ax (that we still have) stuck into it.  That was where he split kindling for the woodstove and the fireplace.

I also remember that there was a window above the kitchen sink and my grandmother (and the other adults and kids who were tall enough) could look through it and into the woodshed.  I remember when a family of skunks moved in one winter and my grandmother held me up to see them.  She even put scraps out for them and when my mother questioned her wisdom in that regard she protested, “But they are always very polite.”

Nowadays, that north forty area is used more for storage than for anything else.  It has a cement floor, poured in the ‘70s I think, and any resemblance to the old woodshed is lost in the mists of memory.  I’m even quite vague about exactly what is stored there.  Take canes, for instance.

Nyel, 2013

Nyel, 2013

I’ve ‘always’ known that there is the Memorial Family Cane Collection in one corner.  At various times, both my mother and father had need of a cane.  My grandfather used a cane in his later years.  When he was in his nineties, my great-grandfather used two canes.  So, when Nyel began using a cane a year or so ago, he chose one of the tallest ones.

I’ve always thought it was one of the two that R.H. Espy used but yesterday I ran across a photograph of R.H. with one cane.  It’s definitely not the one Nyel is using.  I’m pretty sure that we have a later photo of R.H. with two canes and I think that would for sure establish the provenance of Nyel’s cane, but I’ll be darned if I can find that picture.  No doubt it is in box of memorabilia somewhere out in that north forty.  Which is, of course, what makes that part of the house so scary…


  1. Nancy

    Ah, the cane container! Ours sits at the end of the entry area. Part of Jack’s “dowry”, Asian in style,white, blue and light red, it contains a variety of canes, most of which with unknown origins. Why we originally placed it there is not recalled, but later today I think I will examine each one and allow an active imagination to imagine the hands that have held it. It seems as if canes are not in fashion these days. Too bad. Nyel looks elegant, tall and good looking with a cane in his hand.

  2. Caroline Miller

    Well, Nancy, I use a cane though I’d like a prettier one than my black one, something with flowers on it, maybe. But when one talks of canes and woodsheds, me thinks that is a very scary combination given stories about being taken out to the woodshed.


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