Mixsonian LarryLarry

By Nadine Dixon

     Old houses hold a strange fascination for many people. For some its structure and design draws them to it, for others it might be the setting and location on which it was built. Then there are some who see an old weather worn house and thoughts begin to arouse a curiosity about those who have lived there. What were they like? What hardships did they endure and what about the good times they experienced? What stories could the old house reveal if it could talk?

     Such a house stands in our community and belongs to my husbands family. The house, in the spirit of memory belongs to all Feasters. Called by many "The Feaster Home" it stands on land that has been in the family since the original grant.

    It stands two stories high with a wide hall through its center, porches upstairs and down. It remains to this day a reminder to all who lived there, of the difficult days of the depression, of hard work, and a togetherness that bonded them together forever.

     During the depression it became necessary for most of the Feaster families to live in the old house. Each family had one bedroom to live in. The kitchen and dining room was shared by all the families. When one had a money paying job, it was used for the good of all. Jobs were scarce and families lived off the land and what they could produce on it.

    One can stand in the back yard gazing toward the pond and almost hear the clucking, cackling sound of the several hundred chickens Lula Feaster lovingly cared for. Eggs were sold to the "egg man" - who also delivered feed for the chickens - but not without plenty of work. The eggs had to be gathered, washed, graded and candled (for freshness) before they were ready to be packed in cases to be sold.

     Lula could not hear the sounds her beloved chickens made but they didn't mind. They just watched for the gentle hands that fed them each day and went about scratching, clucking and laying more eggs. A few years before Lula died a daughter gave her a hearing aid with a big heavy battery. When she was alone she would turn off the hearing aid to save the battery but when she was with her chickens she would turn it on. She loved to hear the sounds her chickens made.

    Every acre of useable land was needed to support the large family.

    Men and boys cleared land covered with trees, underbrush and rocks, by hand. The soil was turned with mules and plows. Seeds were dropped in rows by hand and weeds removed by everyone who could manage a hoe. At harvest time everyone was needed to pick the produce, especially if there was a market for it to be sold.

     There were many hours of work for the women and girls also. In addition to the cooking of the family meals, vegetables and fruit had to be canned or preserved, cows to be milked and butter churned. These were a few of the many necessary jobs to be done.

    Working in the fields was common for everyone. The chore of washing and ironing for the large family was an enormous task. Here too everything was done by hand. In scorching hot summer or freezing icy winters this job was a weekly chore.

    Now the house stands vacant, but excitement fills the hearts of young and old alike when family reunions are held each year in the yard surrounding the house.

    A huge oak stands in the side yard, its branches reaching out to cover a space large enough to provide shade for the one hundred twenty five or more Feaster descendents and friends that gather each May to picnic and reminisce.

    An older generation, were they still here, could sit beneath its spreading branches and remember days when they as young boys would climb to its top and ride it down to the ground. Now a giant among trees its trunk measures nearly 15 feet around, its enormous limbs themselves are large enough to be trees.

    The youngest of the descendents bathe themselves in the freedom the large yard offers. Their entertainment varies from swinging in the porch swing, playing in the dirt, or playing ball on the grass that once was a lawn. 

     For those who fall between the old and the young, it's a time to visit, update their lives since the last reunion and of course brag about children and grandchildren.

    The house, its halls and rooms once filled with music and laughter, now stands silent. Closets that once provided standing space for children, looking on while parents, relatives and neighbors danced, now are empty. A stairway once filled with sleepy little ones sitting, listening to grown up talk about crops or the news of the day is empty. Its bannister smooth from each generation of children sliding down to its base, gathers dust in its loneliness.

    At Christmas the children waited near the stairs for entrance into the living room where the tree and gifts surely would be. Christmas in the house holds special memories for each age. Decorations in the early days were red and green rope secured with shiny silver bells and a freshly cut evergreen. Homemade ornaments graced its boughs. Green holly with bright red berries was placed around the doors and windows. The brightest lights were seen in the sparkle of excitement in the children's eyes.

    In more recent years the sounds of forty or more voices singing Christmas Carols, ring out across the neighborhood. Or the scene of the Christmas story being acted out by the small children in costumes made from old sheets, towels, curtains or rags touch ones heart.

    There are times when each age returns to the old house, to walk around its yard, linger there for a while engrossed in personal memories, and then move back to the present.

    Many who have lived in the old house are no longer here, but the house still stands, like a monument from the past, catching glances from those passing by who wonder -- what could that old house tell if it could talk?