Though not much went on today, I am exhausted. I guess the week has taken its toll at last. Restless night last night — don’t know why, but it was difficult to fall asleep. And when I did, I kept waking up. The alarm went off and at 7 a.m. I dragged myself out of bed, dressed, and waited. And waited. No real work went on today — the contractor had to get electrical wiring and ended up having to drive to Lafayette to get it. He and his dad picked up and delivered the flooring for my bedroom.
So I ended up actually sitting around the house all morning, watching HGTV and washing clothes in preparation for Dad returning to Southwind. HGTV is just too addictive. For show after show I watched as people shopped for homes or planned renovations or hunted for international getaways. None of these homes resembled anything I own or have owned or lived in. Budgets that start at $200,000 and head toward $900,000 just amaze me. Renovations that cost more than what I paid for my home in Lake Charles astound me. High-end living? Some of it. But not all of it. Some of the prices just reflect the kinds of homes that many people seek. The mortgages must strangle them. Or else their salaries are far higher than mine ever was as a professor (not that we make high salaries in Louisiana).
No, the home I am renovating now is far more modest. Built in 1946 by Sun Oil Company, it was one of 9 houses or so that made up the Egan Sun Oilfield camp. Returning veterans from WWII who worked for various oil and gas companies found a housing shortage, and houses such as this one were built to provide free housing for people like Dad. Yes, that’s right. Free housing. Basically, we lived in a small compound in a small town ( a village, really, in the case of Egan) or even out in the country outside of small towns (like the camp we previously lived in, near Sunset, Louisiana, which is in turn near Opelousas).
All the houses were variations on a couple of designs. Two bedrooms with a narrow back room that could work as a third bedroom. One bathroom. Either a small kitchen and a larger living room or a large kitchen and a smaller living room. That was it. The color palette was narrow, as I recall: Desert Sand seemed particularly popular. All the houses had hardwood floors in the bedrooms and living rooms and linoleum in the bathrooms and kitchens.
In the Egan camp, one double garage served two houses, sitting at the end of a gravel driveway off of the concrete road that ran in front of the houses over a cattleguard, and out to the highway. Two rows of houses. Two concrete roads. Backyards connected the backs of the rows, with a line of switch cane bushes dividing the yards. Those of us who lived on the houses at the end of a row nearest the highway had the benefit of even more room to play: there was a huge area that could easily have held another house on each row. Across the road from the first row was yet another expanse of land, empty except for a huge swingset (made out of oilfield pipes, I’m sure). There were drainage ditches in front of the houses, and there were sidewalks from the front door to the road.
So this house has a specific history and purpose, not that many people today even know what oil-field camps were.
This house, in fact, isn’t one that we lived in at all. We lived in two different houses, one on either road, at different times. This house was one that another family lived in. In 1966, the 20-year lease on the property was up, and Sun Oil broke up the camp. Some of us bought houses and moved them onto land that we also bought. I think my dad told me that he paid maybe $2000.00 for this house, and about $800 for the land. My mother chose this house because it had a larger living room. He and two friends who also worked for the company extended the house by taking the back wall down and built out from the narrow back room/enclosed porch. They also placed the double garage we bought on the property, placing it on a concrete slab that they poured, and building a room and laundry room between the house itself and the garage — forming an L.
Renovations frequently provide surprises, and ours is no different. In our case, the wiring needs to be completely replaced. Tim, the contractor, was tying in a new motion-activated light for the front of the house and as he did, the wiring just crumbled in his hands. Not exactly safe. Some wiring still had insulation, but broken and chewed (thanks, mice and other creatures) and the lovely copper showed through. Not something we’d planned on, but something absolutely necessary.
The newest wiring came from the 1970s, when Dad ran a 220-line to the front window for a window air-conditioner. Central heating (gas) but window units. Not for long — now we’re going to add central air-conditioning, since the duct-work is already there. That duct-work is metal. Vintage 1946.
I don’t even want to think about the lead that probably is still under the current wall paint in my bedroom and Kay’s, or that was in the original bathroom’s sheetrock that had to be removed. If the lead hasn’t hurt us yet, it won’t now. Nor will the asbestos shingles that were also standard finish for all the camp houses. White, of course. In the camp we used broken pieces to play hopscotch with on the sidewalks. The broken shingle pieces could be used both to actually mark out the hopscotch blocks and to use as the pieces we threw. No one worried then about friable asbestos products. Or lead-based paint.
So today, while Tim searched for heavy-duty wiring in Lafayette, I sat in one of the recliners, drank Diet Dr. Pepper, watched HGTV, and found myself aching and weary. Yet I couldn’t simply lie down and sleep. By noon, I realized that it might be raining again soon, and that our backyard was beginning to resemble a wilderness garden. The riding lawnmower, parked under the truck/boat shed at the back of our yard, started easily enough. But no matter how I tried, I couldn’t seem to really make the progress I thought I ought to make. I moved the blade up and down, but after two hours and endless passes back and forth and then perpendicular to the original rows, the grasses and weeds looked more like I was rolling them to death rather than actually cutting them. Clover patches didn’t really disappear.
I finally gave up, came in, and drank more DDP. Guess I’ll need to get a friend to see if a belt slipped off somehow.
By three, I took a break to get the mail and make a run to the bank for an extra checkbook. Then back to the house.
Next up: boxing some books and moving three pieces of furniture out of my bedroom (not alone — my sister came in and helped). I’ll work more tomorrow on clearing out the two huge bookcases and piling those boxes somewhere. The room will be the next for new flooring, and I’ll have all the small furniture and baskets out so that only the bed and bookcases are actually left. I hope to repaint the room, too, though whether I can manage to get any of that done tomorrow is, frankly, doubtful.
Finally, I drove back to Crowley, filling the tank of the truck (OMG — gas prices!) and taking clean clothes to Southwind, where I was able to sit and visit with Dad.Today he was released from the hospital and is once more at Southwind. I put away the clean clothes, placed the laundry hamper back in his closet, and sat and talked. He is alert once more, with a healthier appetite, and renewed interest in everything. We talked about the house, about the renovations, about the farm and family, and just enjoyed each other’s company for a while.
A quick trip to Walmart for more boxes to put books in and a few more things, and just as I drove into Egan, the rain that has been threatening all day finally came, though not for long. Not yet, anyway. I suspect that it’ll pour tonight or tomorrow.
So here I sit on Friday night, with a stiff neck and aching muscles from moving furniture and books. For a lazy day, I got a number of projects started or advanced or completed.
Tomorrow the alarm will go off at 7 a.m. again, because even though tomorrow is Saturday and the weekend, the sheetrock guy is coming back.
Tonight I am just bone-tired. My eyes even ache. It’s a good kind of tired, though.
But I’ll get some sleep tonight, I think, and the rest that eluded me last night.