Last weekend, my family and a whole bunch of other people worked on houses up in the mountains. Used to be that we’d see groups like us coming up; now we’re part of them. There were enough teams for two houses, so we got split and our team went to fix the house of Eliza and Indie Burr, two sisters that live on Jumpett Creek. They came running out like chickens when they heard all the trucks, waving and calling. Miss Eliza had on a wide purple hat with a pink feather in it, and Miss Indie was wearing overalls and a green checked apron with ruffles.
“It’s a mercy you’ve come,” said Miss Eliza, “because our roof is leaking something awful.” Her hat feather shook when she talked.
“It weren’t so bad during the winter,” added Miss Indie, “but keeping out snow is one thing and keeping out rain is a whole other deal.”
Once we got inside, I wondered how it made any difference, since there were holes everywhere letting the sunlight through. Most of the walls were crumbling from damp and showed old newspapers underneath. The living room had two wooden chairs, a sagging sofa, some trunks, and a double bed on cement blocks. It was dark and cold, with a worn rug covering the floor planks. The only other room was the kitchen, which had a nice wooden table and chair set, and was warmed by a big black wood burning stove.
“Where’s your lights at?” asked one of the men.
“We use kerosene lamps,” said Miss Indie. “Ain’t no electric.”
“Lord help us,” muttered the man, and he fled outside.
“No plumbing, either, in case you wanted to know,” she added. Papa just scratched his head and nodded at them. “We’ll get to work. You ladies got someplace to perch while we’re messing up your house?”
“We have the shed, it hasn’t been used since Pap died,” said Miss Eliza. “It has electric, too, isn’t that funny? Pap put electricity in there for his woodwork shop, but we never had it here in the house. He made our kitchen table and chairs, you know.”
“Is that so?” asked Papa. “Let’s have a look. Could be we can plug in some power tools from there.”
So we went out to the shed, which was bigger than the house and smelled like sawdust and oil. Papa found a switch and turned it on; three bare bulbs lit up what used to be Mr. Burr’s woodwork shop. There were stacks of boards and some fancy table legs lying in a corner. Saws and other tools were rusting up on the wall. Sunlight poured in from big windows front and back. As far as I could tell, there weren’t any holes in the roof.
“I’ll be,” breathed Papa. He called in the other men and they walked the shed up and down before talking in a huddle. Finally, Papa came back to the Misses Burrs and us.
“Ladies, we’ve got an idea and we want to see how it will set with you,” he said.
The sisters both cocked their heads, just like a pair of dogs.
“The way we see it, you can stay in a house without electricity, water, or a good roof, and end up sliding into Jumpett Creek someday—or you could move into this big, watertight, workshop with electricity and sunlight, and live comfy. You’ve even got a water pump in the back, yonder, that we could build around and turn into a kitchen. Now, what do you say to that?”
It was a long time before they said anything, Diary. I guess the idea had never come up before and they had to think hard.
“Sister?” Eliza finally said, looking out from under her hat. Indie blinked and then nodded. They both turned to Papa.
“We’ll do it,” they breathed.
Everyone cheered and then the place got busy. I’ve never worked that hard in all my life, Diary, and I don’t look forward to ever doing it again, but by the end of the weekend, we had three nice rooms for the Misses Burrs to move into: a living room, a bedroom, and a kitchen. We brought over all their furniture—including the bed, which now sat on a wooden platform instead of cement blocks, and the kitchen stove. Sunday afternoon, Mama and I helped the rest of the women lay out food on some folding tables. Everyone had dinner and toasted the new home. Then I helped clear and pack while Papa and the workers hammered up some new kitchen shelves.
There are still some things that need doing, but lots of the group volunteered to go back next weekend and finish up. I’m going to ask Heart Threads to knit them a new blanket for their bed.
Papa said he’d never done a better two and a half days’ work in his life. Even though I didn’t do anywhere near as much as him, Diary, I feel just the same.