This is what the back of my house looked like in--well, judging by the snow on the ground in this photo it could be anywhere from October to May--so I'll just say this is what the back of my house looked like earlier this year, and what it still looks like (minus the snow) today. I'd like to call your attention to the wall behind that ladder. See that patched-in place? With all the uneven clapboards? That's where the back door used to be, long before I bought the house, and I hate the way they patched it all sloppy and uneven. I think I know why they--whoever "they" are--did it that way: because they knew that their sloppy patch was going to be covered up almost immediately by cedar shingles, which used to cover the whole house. (Remember how ugly that looked??) That's also why they didn't make the patch by the existing door look nicer, too. It used to be a window, which was slightly wider than the door, and they just stuck a scrap piece of lumber on the side there.
Last fall I decided that I'd buy new clapboards and run them the length of that wall, from the trim there on the left clear over to the door, all nice and even. Then I went to the lumberyard and priced new clapboards and decided that $250 was too much to pay for cedar clapboards just to get rid of a patch in the wall, especially when they're so thin I could cut 'em with a Dremel tool. I complained about this one evening last fall while drinking a beer with the guy down the street, and Chris flung open his garage door to show me a giant stack of clapboards salvaged from an 1870s house. "I'll sell ya what I don't use to fix my own house," he said. We shook hands on the deal.
And, in the way of things around here, almost a year went by before we talked about those clapboards again.
A lot's happened since then, some of it not too good, and without getting into the details I'll just say that Chris has decided reluctantly to pull up stakes and leave our little town. That meant I needed to go get those clapboards right away, so I drove The Toaster down the alley last Friday and spent what will probably be my last afternoon at that house with Chris. (In the basement, no less, which is where he was storing the clapboards.) That house is the house that Mare and I lived in once upon a time. We split up, Mare ran out of money, the house sold before I had the money to buy it myself, and it's been sold twice since I bought the Kelly House. Now it's for sale again.
Loading the clapboards into my car, I asked Chris where they came from. "A house out east of town on 24," he said, "before they tore it down." Oddly, Mare lived in that house, too, until he lost it to foreclosure. Then someone with good intentions but bad advice gutted the house before they ran out of money to restore it, so it sat vacant and in disrepair for several years until the farmer who owned the surrounding land had the house torn down. The siding was salvaged by the previous owner of Chris's house and stored in the garage for several years.
Those clapboards have made an unlikely journey from the house east of town which no longer stands, to the house down the street where some of them replaced broken clapboards there, and now to my own house. I think it would be fitting, given their history, if Mare helped me put them on my house, but I suspect he'll see that a little less poetically than I do.