BUILDING THE HOUSE ON HANGING DOG CREEK
We were hippies then,
disillusioned by the American dream,
credit cards and debt, folks who sold out.
Moving back to the land attracted us.
We ignored the best jobs,
chose Appalachia for beauty,
farm land, hiking and canoeing.
We set out to build a home
with our own hands,
grow food, create a self sufficient life.
Saving for years, finally it was time
to frame, roof, wire and plumb.
Every detail is still embedded in my mind:
Mark the space with batter boards.
Level with plastic tubes and water.
Dig deep for foundation piers.
Mix concrete in a wheelbarrow.
Set the joists, then the floor and stud walls.
Become expert with hammer and nail.
An old house provided salvage oak,
glass, and doors. We tore it down.
Days and days of pulling nails, sorting wood
taught me patience I had not planned to learn.
We built our doors and windows in a class,
learned the tools, sanded for hours.
I remember dancing through the house,
both stories standing tall and straight.
Author’s Comment: This poem relates the true story of a project started in 1978, building my house. I still live in the house. It has never been entirely finished, though it doubled in size with the addition of a very small newborn person in 1986. Life has changed many times since the days of building this house. Still, it is one of my most memorable and character building accomplishments. I wrote this poem to help my son know about my life before he was born.
Bio: Mary Ricketson’s poetry has been published in her chapbook, I Hear the River Call My Name, Lights in the Mountains, Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, Freeing Jonah IV, Freeing Johah V, and Wild Goose Poetry Review, Future Cycle Press. She won the gold medal for poetry in the 2011 Cherokee County Senior Games/Silver Arts. She is a member of the North Carolina Writers Network, a mental health counselor, and a farmer.
We never built from the ground up–not a house. But every house we ever lived in had something unfinished, mostly from what my late husband had started as improvement, and which we could live with as it stopped because there was something else more important to do. I remember mixing cement in the body of an old wheelbarrow, practically everything about interior finishing (but he hung the sheetrock), and to this day I know about the tools in my kitchen drawer. Building together is a life-changing experience. Thank you for putting it down so well in verse!
Mary, I enjoyed this poem. I am also pleased to see your work popping up in other publications as well. Please do keep sending your work out.
Mary, I can SEE you dancing, with laughter, as you celebrated your creation.
Mary, this is a delightful poem with all the energy, idealism and intensity of youth with a purpose. How strong and knowledgeable you are!