The last of the old house was destroyed today, and the remaining combustible rubble, piled amid the tumbled-in foundation, is still burning at this late hour. The electric company also removed the old poles and their equipment so the burden on the earth where the old house stood is almost gone. Some of the old house is piled between the new house and the horse barn, waiting to be buried and reclaimed by the earth. The things that were worth recycling, or too large and/or hazardous for burying were hauled away.
Once the big machines had bitten into the old house, pulling down the walls, exposing wiring and pipes and the long history of paint and wall paper, I saw how flimsy and impermanent that structure truly was. I felt a pang of regret for the end of that little home. Once it was new and carried someone's hopes and dreams for a good life here in the bend of this nameless little prairie creek.
My son and I moved in 14 years ago this month. I took my son away from Topeka, afraid of the undesirable influences that place held for a fatherless teen aged boy, (not that he was unable to find trouble in Wabaunsee County). Today he is a college educated man, self-supporting and living on his own without a single prison tattoo or one piercing. It was not always pretty or graceful or nice or fun but by God he made it. (He had no choice, really. Anything else was going to be over my dead body. Literally.)
So my memories of that handsome young boy running the creek with a much younger Duke - the echoes of ten thousand basketball shots tossed from the back patio - the hundreds of ball games and practices and track meets - the arguments and worries and good times and dates and proms and school trips and activities until he excitedly left home for college, not looking back for a moment - the energy of those dear memories wafted upward with the smoke of the dying house. And as I watched in the waning light of this day, a mighty sadness swept through me.
Now my life is irrevocably changed. There is no going back to that time of my life, no going back to that little house. It is gone forever, as if it never existed, like so many other things I hold dear in my heart that are all gone forever. Of course, I would NEVER want to return to that mouse infested pit that was failing and falling down around me as I sat watching the giant television! What the hell is wrong with me?
Still, I was sad and blue when the sun went down and I tried to go to bed to sleep it off. Life is always better in the morning, no matter what. As soon as I was settled in bed, Duke began barking, warning something significant away from his home. He circled the house time and again, barking in his brave and authoritative voice even though he is old and it wears him out to stand guard. I kept listening for Jake to chime in, but he was silent. I was frankly hoping whatever threat Duke was barking at had already claimed Jake's worthless hide.
Sometimes when a creature is prowling and clearly on the move around my house, the porch lights will convince it to move on. So I got out of bed and turned on the lights, calling for Duke. Jake popped up from under the porch where he had apparently been loafing and came to the door expecting what, I wondered? Duke was not ready to leave his post but eventually he did. I could hear the neighbor's dog barking down the creek, too, so something pretty big was out there. Maybe it was Big Foot, but maybe not. I finally heard Jake barking for a few moments, then he clocked out, putting in a good minute and a half of work.
All is silent now, here and down the creek. I can still see flames flaring up here and there, consuming the last of the wood. Maybe Big Foot had come around to pay his final respects to the little house.