Cherry picking history


If you own an old house, you might romanticize the good-old days.

I’m guilty. Even as I press my glass against the fridge water dispenser…. and charge my cell phone… I sometimes think, “I’m stepping on the same pine floor laid 100 years ago.”

A tenuous but historical connection.

When I roll open the living room pocket doors, I imagine someone doing the same a century ago. They probably warned their kids the same way: “Do not hang on the doors! You’ll pull them off the runners!”

We use the same doors and knobs and windows as those who lived here without electricity and running water. We’re connected to people who lived without traffic, noise and light pollution… who never stumbled over cheap, plastic toys discarded about the house. Those were the days…

Simpler days…

…but also days of dirt, disease and pestilence!


Living without electricity and running water was gross AND a major drag, I thought as I plunged two buckets into the horses’ water trough and hoisted them out. Last week a hefty rain (and faulty sump) shorted out the well pump. For two days the horse trough was our main water source. We used bottled water to drink and brush teeth, but we needed buckets to flush the toilets (which cease auto-flushing without water pressure). We hauled loads of water across the cold, blustery pasture, up the porch and into each bathroom. Several times.

And let me say this: dumping water in a toilet isn’t as… elegant… as modern flushing. And enlisting another person to dribble frigid water over your soapy hands isn’t as satisfying as a functioning sink.

I thought a lot about plumbing as I trudged outside, buckets banging my knees. Early owners of the house used a pump out back, though I’m not sure when that came to be. They might have used the pond (since drained) or the spring house (pictured above) which was twice the distance. For sure, the 1905 owners didn’t use a “water closet.” They hiked to the outhouse behind the barn. (Oddly, the privy hole still exists. Legend has it, this site has Civil War significance so it’s never been filled in. A historically-significant hole? Okay…)

At some point, the farmhouse was piped for radiator heat and the owners enclosed half of the hallway and plumbed it, rendering the outhouse obsolete.

I didn’t think about plumbing until it was gone. Fortunately after two days, our water was restored. We were back to scalding showers and other necessities like automatic crushed ice.

I can’t say I’ll continue appreciating these conveniences. And I still crave the olden days in a selective fashion. Like last night, when I despaired that my closet offered nothing to wear.

It was probably easier when people couldn’t afford clothes, I thought. I could live back then, with just a few outfits and a Sunday dress. I could live that way… 

As long as my washer and dryer time-travel, too.