From just before I turned 4 to just after I turned 12 my family resided in a small house on Forrest Street in Eminence, Indiana. I didn’t know at the time that the name of the street was Forrest – there were no signs and we got our mail from a box at the tiny Eminence post office. I also didn’t realize at the time that the house was small – but it was. The original floor plan had four rooms arranged in a simple square. Only one of the four rooms had doors that closed it off from the others. This room served as my parent’s bedroom. The other three rooms featured open passages. One was the kitchen, all five of us kids slept in one and the fourth was our living room. A later bump out addition provided a tiny indoor bathroom to replace the old outhouse. One more addition – which I helped with a little bit – was a utility room off the kitchen built mainly to hold a washing machine. Prior to this, moms’ options included washing clothes by hand in a wash tub (which did double duty as a bath tub) or dragging her mob of little kids to the tiny Eminence laundry mat. The house had lath and plaster walls with no additional insulation, minimal electricity and zero provision for central heat. In the years of our residency we switched from a wood stoves in the kitchen and living room to an electric range in the kitchen and a gas heater in the living room. I remember also that dad put knotty pine paneling on the walls close to the gas heater. The house originally got water from a hand pump in a well in the side yard. Installing an electric pump in the well and running plumbing into the house was an obvious afterthought and the hand pump was left in place, protruding from a hole in the twin formed concrete slabs that covered the otherwise open well pit. That job had been done at the time the bathroom was added and the bathroom was the only room on a slab so that portion of the plumbing was fairly secure. The additional lines run to feed the kitchen sink were – less than tightly sealed and we suffered through more than one episode of furry invaders: I say suffered though I was at an age to recall them as pleasantly exciting adventures. Catching and evicting chipmunks has a certain appeal to little boys. Dad sealed the opening around the plumbing better after the episode involving the rat – an episode that remains a clear memory though I was only four going on five at the time. Dad’s first attempt to repel ‘varmints’ was to place poison in the crawl space under the house. If the rat were not already pretty sick from the poison the story would have been different. Anyway – It started with Mom shrieking – ‘RAT!!!!’ The piercing tone of her announcement of the latest ‘varmint’ got all our attention and sure enough – there was a rat in the passageway between the living room and the kids’ bedroom – staring at us with its beady little black eyes. I wasn’t sure what all was going on in mom’s head but she obviously was much more alarmed about the rat than she had been about the chipmunks. She had partnered with my older sister and I in driving the chipmunks either out the door or into a box that allowed us to carry them out the door. Even at my very young age I caught the drift that mom was not going to take an active hand in evicting the rat. Perhaps it was the way she pointed at the unfortunate rodent (with the hand she wasn’t busy chewing the nails off) and wailed – ‘Don’t let it get away!’ Well, OK. I advanced on the rat (solo – my sister shared my mom’s inexplicable aversion to the animal) and it turned to flee. I realized later that it moved very slow for a rat and that it must have been suffering from the poison bait in the crawl space. Otherwise, it would not have been so easy for me to seize it by the tail as I did. The rat turned its head toward my little almost five-year-old fingers (again – very slow for a rat) and mom screamed again – ‘Let it go’. So I did and it started to scrabble away and mom screamed – ‘Don’t let it get away’ So I grabbed it by the tail again. Mom screamed ‘Let it go!’ so I did – beginning to be very confused. One more cycle of catch and release occurred before Dad – who had been working on the car in the back yard and heard the commotion – came through the door with a crescent wrench still in hand. The rat was dealt with shortly and the space around the kitchen plumbing better sealed that same evening. That house is gone now – and four other houses that used to line Forrest Street – which now has a sign! It is hard for me to believe that five homes used to occupy that tiny patch of grass. The last time I looked, the old well was still there covered by the same concrete slabs – though the hand pump was gone. My sister got her tongue stuck on that thing once – but that’s another story. There are things I miss about those days and my thoughts about that house are somewhat nostalgic – we were largely happy there. But I will tell you this – I would not trade living in my current house (or any other house I have lived in since we moved when I was 12) to go back to the structure on Forrest Street – if it were still there. I find God always to be good and I am happy enough now. But when I have moved into my eternal home, I suspect I will not ever want to trade back.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church