Friday, December 07, 2007

Time Travel

The original homestead was built somewhere around 1790. Not even the local historical society really knows. It's a brick home consisting of only two large rooms and a store room. The entire right side is nothing more than the kitchen, old cast iron utensils hanging from holes that have been punched in the wall for over two hundred years. The enormous fireplace/cooking oven takes up the entire room. Next to it is the living area/dining area. It has a smaller fireplace for warmth and light and little else. The rooms still to this day have no running water, electricity, or bathrooms. They need to be lit by candle at night and even in the swamps of Gurley, Louisiana it's cold at night. This home was built shortly after the Spanish Land Grant was bought by it's first non-Spanish family. He was the oldest man to sign the cessation document for Louisiana to leave the Union prior to the Civil War. He was a judge by the name of Thomas Scott, and soon this would be his cattle farm.
By 1827 the home was finished. It was built in the "Carolina I" style, distinguished by the two chimneys that bookend the structure. Rumor has it that his wife was born and raised on a South Carolina plantation, in a Carolina I. He built the home to mimic her own in an effort to entice her south. Oakland House was it's given name, and would only change hands once more to the current day. This is where we came into the picture....

****example of Carolina I home layout******

Lydia's girlfriend Prentiss (a Carolina Belle herself, oddly enough) married a member of a very old Louisiana family, "Hutch" McClendon. His family has owned the home since the Scott's. They now have four children, all of them boys, to carry on the McClendon heritage at this site. Old money reigns supreme here, and if you can't prove lineage to the country's very young history in battle, you should probably quickly change the topic and laugh a lot. This life is different from anything you have ever known if you haven' ever seen it. People think that new money, (like Hollywood actor/singer money) is great. Actors know nothing of the understated but strikingly different power of old money.
Hutch couldn't be nicer. Oh, and he rides a sweet old Fisher Paragon. For all the family history, all the hard work and smart investing, he still is the "good-Ol'-boy" that goes and hunts the family dinner each week, then smokes it in the original, unlit homestead kitchen next door with two hundred year old utensils. See if Beyonce can handle that. I doubt tiny little Tom Cruise could even identify a deer, let alone know how to dress it and build a fire to cook it. Hutch is a man's man, and unlike most new money rock-star dirt-bags, he would NOT have allowed Kid Rock to sock him in the jaw at an awards show. If that were attempted, Kid would have likely been skinned and disemboweled before the "M.C" would have known what happened. That's the difference between old money and new. Old money was earned in battle, with blood and bits of broken bone.
New money was earned selling porn tapes of your 17 year old Firecrotch to the highest bidder, then acting like it was stolen.
The property was amazing. With rooms being added, removed, then re-added over the centuries the place was breathtaking. Small architectural details could have kept me asking questions for weeks. A cemetery next door had graves that were readable back to the 1590's or so, beyond that they were too smooth to read anymore...but they were there. I know we are a new country in the grand scheme of things..but unless a Padre was buried in the floor of a mission in CA, we don't see much of that kind of "old" here. We would stay for two days, a gift from Hutch to Prentiss on her birthday. On Sunday, we drove to see New Orleans before departing. Signs of KATRINA clearly still visible, we began to count blue plastic (used as rain-roofs for still-destroyed roofs) tarps as a distraction for the kids on the drive in.

Upon arrival, we drove through the old Garden District, barely touched by flood waters due to a small pocket of height...probably less than than fifteen feet..that saved it. It was beautiful here, but on the 1st of December it was still 80 degrees and humid. Summer would surely be hell. We continued on around the Lee Memorial, a tall pillar in downtown that has a bronze of Gen. Lee mounted atop it. His back is ceremoniously turned to the North. I have a feeling this sentiment runs deep here, and likely will never change. The mall on Jackson Square was stunning. Paris Hilton would have no use for this mall, though. It is an historic place, in the center of which stands a large bronze of Andrew Jackson on horseback. Beautiful buildings and a church adorn the square...street performers and carriage rides delight even the most jaded tourist.
We had a quick bite, loaded back up, and rolled to the car for the flight home. I won't soon forget Oakland House. I'm sure it has some secrets, but for now the biggest secret is when I will get to return....


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