The House That Dad Built

Sara Weber

© Copyright 2024 by Sara Weber

Photo by Rene Asmussen at Pexels.
Photo by Rene Asmussen at Pexels.

The Booby Bungalow sat between Nashville and Huntsville, just off the I-65 South exit for Fayetteville-Pulaski. It was the exit Dad told us to take to get to his newly built house. “Now listen”, he said, “unlike what your mom thought, I did not buy this land because of the proximity to the Booby Bungalow. I bought it because it has always been my dream to have space to play ‘Cowboys and Indians’ when I retire” (I would always correct him with “Just cowboys, Dad, just cowboys.”) 

My mom and dad purchased the land when I was in high school. I remember getting a bucket of chicken from KFC after church and sitting in the back of dad’s truck, swatting at flies and eating chicken while surveying the land. “That’s where the house will be,” Dad said, pointing with a drumstick, “and that’s where the barn will be.”

In other words, mom’s residence,“ I joked. 

I’m not totally sure, but I don’t think my mom actually wanted to live there. It was ironic to me when she made the final payment on the land to the bank, letting Dad know that the land was finally his, free and clear. I think she would have rather used the money to travel.

He loved it up there. It was 20 acres on a hill, full of trees and deer, and across the road was a creek. When my mom died, Dad used her insurance money to build a beautiful red brick ranch house and a huge red barn to match. He bought 2 horses, named Dixie and Dolly, and a covered carriage. 

Once when I was visiting, Dad drove the carriage to church with me in the back. He had a friend ride up front with him, to help in case the horses got out of hand. I remember looking out from the back and thinking “This is his dream come true.” When we rode past other horses in the pasture, they ran to the fence, as if to salute us.  What was normally a 15-minute drive in the car became a 2-hour ride in the horse-drawn carriage. When we pulled into church, everyone gathered around. Someone took our picture. It showed up in the local paper, the Elk Valley Times, the following week. We were Fayetteville royalty. 

We had so many good times in that house. Christmas with the original tree and lights that Dad had had for 40 years and that burned your fingers if you touched them. Big Thanksgiving dinners where we crammed around the dining room table and stuck the kids at the folding table. Football games in the front yard. Coffee on the porch watching the snowfall. Teaching my dad to play Wii bowling - a game he loved because he could do it from his lazy boy.

There was an unfinished basement where he threw a couple of mattresses so that at any given time, there could be 4- to 6 grandkids sleeping down there. They owned 2 dogs, but every time we went to visit, there were at least 4 cats and 3 other dogs roaming the property.

Memory is a funny thing. Lately, my memories have drifted only to the good times. And for that I am grateful. But I know it was far from perfect. There were arguments and tears. There were sleepless nights with newborn babies and dying fathers. More than once, an ambulance was called and took someone away.

Last September when I went home for my class reunion, I made the drive to my parents’ cemetery to lay flowers. And then I headed to see the old homestead. The new owners had put up a fence that went halfway down the driveway. I stopped there with my headlights on. Two dogs came out, barking their heads off, reminding me that I didn’t belong there anymore.

The Booby Bungalow is gone now and there is a cheap motel in its place. When I drove home for his funeral, I almost missed the exit. As time goes on, I wonder if I’ll remember the exit at all.

Sara Weber graduated from Redeemer University with a B.A. in Theater and English. Her first one-woman show about her mother’s battle with cancer, 
On the Roof, was performed all over Canada and the United States in festivals, cancer society conferences, schools, bereavement conferences, and various theaters.  She has since written and produced two full-length plays, as well as three other one-woman shows. Sara's story "A Hard C" was published in the Anthology "I just want to hang out with you" (edited by Jen Mann). She resides in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

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