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Wednesday, September 10, 2014


A long while back, my mom discovered that our family owned two pieces of property here in town. Shocked me. Shocked her. She knew of the two houses from long ago as her great grandmother’s sister, Samantha, had lived in the biggest one with her husband, Perry. But Samantha died when my mom was in her twenties leaving Perry a widower.
I remember meeting Uncle Perry; he had been a riverboat captain long before I was born. The house in which he and Samantha would move to was one he built her for a wedding present. And it sat on the Kanawha Boulevard right across from the now Magic Island: It had an entire yard full of purple martin bird houses that he had built.
Perry and Samantha had no children. When he died, his niece inherited everything—except for those two houses which were down the street on Ohio Avenue. Apparently the niece called my mom and told her about them and said that she’d been renting both houses for years. And added: “I deposited the money in the bank.” It shook up my mom as these houses were part of our inheritance along with a family farm. My mom had been collecting the farm taxes forever as her great grandfather didn’t leave a will. So many heirs and so many secondary heirs that it would be impossible to count, but she did.
And guess who had to go with my mom in the dreaded cold winter to check out these two houses? I did. The biggest house that sat in front had each room occupied by one person. Each person had a hot plate and furniture. My mom got livid when she saw that for there was no insurance on the place. The smaller back house was empty but had some furniture in it.
I drove her home and there she sat and stewed upon the situation. Finally, she called a lawyer friend of hers who told her that all of the renters in the biggest house had to get out. This was on a Saturday and the next day, I picked her up and took her over there where she had to tell every single person that they would have to vacate the place. Nice about it she wasn’t for if anything were to happen like a fire or the like, our family would get sued. In two weeks, the house was vacant. And the weather was frigid; after all, it was February.
I was teaching school and on a Saturday morning not long after, she called me and said “You will have to get someone and go over and see if any people are still living in the house.” “Now?” I asked. “Now!” she screeched at me. I called two antique dealer friends of mine to go with me. Heck, there was no way I was going in there alone and besides the temperature was 12 degrees that day.
My friends Tom and Marti went in the frigid house with me. We scoured that place from top to bottom. No renters were found. I did find an antique cupboard of sorts nailed to the wall. Tom pulled it lose and Samantha had written her name on the back of it. The three of us carried it downstairs and put it near the front door. “What about the attic?” Tom asked me. “What do you mean?” “Well, there might be stuff up there that we missed” Tom told me. Ah the adventurer in me came out full force. I ran up those stairs to the attic with Tom and his wife right behind me.
What I saw, I’d already seen---an old metal kitchen table. “Hey!” I shouted “There’s a push up square in the ceiling.” Somehow I got up on that table, pulled the four tabs back and all of a sudden a gigantic amount of bats swooped down into my hair, on my arms and on Tom and Marti. “Get them off of me!” I was screaming. Marti had already run down the staircase leaving just Tom and me. All of a sudden, Tom yanked a curtain rod off the wall and hit every bat he could see. I ran down the staircase and went outside. Hysterical. Marti was there almost frozen and hysterical as well.
Seemed like an eternity before Tom came out but he did and had that cupboard with him. Had no idea what he did with the curtain rod but by this point who cared?
Cupboard was brought to my house by them and they left for home. I was freezing and couldn’t get warm. Called my mom to report what had happened and that there were no renters left in the house. Well that made her glad but I could tell I was getting sick.
Not only did I get pneumonia but those bats on me! I missed a week of teaching school. Yes, I kept that cupboard for a while only to give it to a neighbor which in retrospect, wished I hadn’t.
My mom had to contact every single heir and secondary heir in order to sell both places. That took months. Both were sold; each heir got something like $67. The money that had been in the bank from Uncle Perry’s niece was not a huge amount as it should have been. But it too had to be shared and shared it was.
After the “bat experience,” I would never go into an empty house in the dread of winter ever again. Seriously, would you have wanted a swarm of bats all over you? I don’t think so. And don’t forget getting pneumonia. That was a two-fold experience I will never forget and it all happened just to check and see if any renters were in the house. Well, they weren’t.
Sherry Hill
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Sherry Hill
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