In which our intrepid hero discovers a lonely house on a hill…
Having always basically been a city boy, some aspects of living in the country seem very different to me, including basic issues of convenience. For example, for many years I lived in a townhouse apartment in Grandview, a Columbus neighborhood/incorporated town. My apartment was not just in walking distance but within ridiculously easy walking distance of a grocery store, a pharmacy, several ATMs, a gas station, a number of restaurants from fast food to fancy, two bookstores, a couple of coffee places, two bakeries, a post office, a produce store, and much more. I live in a more typical suburb now, which means that only a few things are that close, but essentially everything is just a short car ride away. But if you live in the countryside, nothing is going to be close, and your options will be fewer. There are many places in Ohio so far away from a gas station that unless you maintain a gas tank on your property you essentially have to plan when you are going to get gas. Do you have a late night craving? Better hope you took that into account when you bought groceries two weeks ago, because no store within many miles will be open.
[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image]
Things such as this can be an inconvenience (and theoretically more than that, such as with a medical emergency), but I don’t mean to describe them as negatives. It is just a different lifestyle. You get compensated by all the things that are not so close to you, from traffic to noise to worse. I’ve thought about moving out to the country; there is a powerful lure to that. But I have to admit that my inherent laziness would probably work against me in such a setting—I am that guy who’ll typically put off things and then find myself without something that I need at the time I need it and no way to get it.
At least for now I can visit the country, in excursions such as these. I take up this excursion more or less at its midpoint, still heading into the hills and woods of eastern Ohio (Appalachian Ohio stretches in a crescent running from eastern to southwestern Ohio bordering the Ohio River). This was one of my longest excursions—note the date, June 15, is only a week from the longest day of the year—and I was able to cover a lot of ground.
Driving among the graveled roads in the remote forested areas of eastern Ohio, one comes across little dirt roads like the above all the time. In West Texas, where I grew up, the desert is honeycombed with such dirt roads leading hither and thither across the dry landscape. However, in Ohio, unmapped roads like these are nearly always extended driveways, simply leading to someone’s home, back in the woods.
Unlike western states, Ohio was settled before concepts such as state or national forests really developed. One consequence of that is that Ohio’s stretches of “pure” woodlands are relatively small. What is more common are areas that are mostly wooded, yet contain occasional residences, including farmland or pastureland (more often the latter than the former in many areas). As a result, one can be driving through the woods, turn a corner, and suddenly a small farm appears and you see some aging barn standing as a sentinel next to the road.
One nice thing about Ohio Appalachia is that it has hills, which offer vantage points that one typically cannot find in western Ohio. Here I was able to look down upon the “back side” of an interesting eastern Ohio farmstead. From this view, at least, it seems to be essentially a livestock operation, though it is possible there might be fields on the far side. I am fairly fond of this shot.
At one point, driving through the woods, I came across an odd cabin on the slopes of a hill. It did not strike me as being a permanent residence, so I am presuming that it is primarily used as some sort of hunting cabin.
Here’s a close-up, so you can more easily see its odd construction.
Not far away, I found these unusual specimens of cattle, which I had never seen before. I was quite taken by their shaggy appearance. Upon my return I did some research and I believe these are Highland cattle, a breed of cattle developed (as the name suggests) in Scotland. They are quite rare in the United States, probably numbering fewer than 30,000 head in the whole country (out of the millions and millions of cattle in the U.S.).
This deserted country crossroads has a weird feeling to it because virtually nothing is straight. The buildings lean, the skyline is askew, the trees lean, even the stop sign is not straight.
Most houses, even in remote areas of Ohio, are fairly conventional, using standard house designs of their time—when they are not prefabricated or mobile homes to begin with. But every now and then you see a home completely built from scratch, often with a design that is quite distinctive or unique. This large red-topped house, nestled in the woods, is one such example.
Late in the afternoon I spotted a lonely old house by itself on a hill that seemed from a distance to be deserted. I knew I wanted to see more of it. Although I now read books on landscape photography to increase my photography proficiency, most of my lessons still tend to be learned the hard way. For example, I have discovered that it is very hard—and often impossible—to take a picture from the bottom of a slope and successfully convey the true nature of the slope. Almost inevitably, they turn out to seem shallower than they actually are. Clearly one needs more distance, or a good vantage point, from which to photograph a hill.
Here’s another shot of the house, taken from the road leading past it. The top of the house peeks over the false horizon of the hill. The clouds cooperated nicely.
I drove up the old dirt driveway onto the property and took this picture in front of the house. This is my favorite picture of this blog entry. The abandoned house looks so desolate by itself on a seemingly bald and windswept hill. There are no trees, no outbuildings, nothing to keep the house company. It conveys a feeling of loneliness and decay that to me is quite striking.
Here’s one last shot of the house, providing a glimpse inside. I must confess to being fascinated about the history of this house. How did it come to be in the shape that it is? Many times, the cause of damage is obvious, but that is not always the case here. What on earth happened to the door frame of this house, for example? It had to be some sort of human interaction, rather than weather or wind. This doorway is like a gaping wound on the house.
At last, my travels brought me to Coshocton, as travels in this region so often do. This town of 11,216 (salute!) is a nice town that unlike many other Ohio towns of its size has not experienced too much population loss in recent decades (its population hasn’t really changed all that much for a hundred years, oddly enough). This time I encountered a tiny little motel on Main Street dubbed the “Down Town Motel.” It is a rather odd place for one of these old motels. Perhaps back in the 1930s Main Street got more traffic (it seems rather sleepy today).
Most of these old motels in their heyday put postcards featuring the motel in the rooms. Many people avidly collect such postcards today and I can often find images of such vintage postcards from hotels I discover on the Internet, giving me a glimpse into their glory days. However, I could not find any for this motel.
Outside of Coshocton I saw something unusual, so I took a picture of it. I see a lot of ruined things in my forays, but abandoned bridges are pretty rare (occasionally you may see the pilings of a former bridge, but that’s usually it). But this was a bridge that had been abandoned long ago and never rebuilt.
Let’s end this third part of the four-part excursion with this shot of people lined up for ice cream in the early evening of a hot summer’s day. This “Dari Hut” is in West Lafayette, a village near Coshocton (population 2,321, salute!).