Lost Horizons- Part II


The Search

I walked back over to the cottage next door where my mom and dad were staying and told my folks about the outhouse. “That’s too bad,” my dad offered. “So you just missed it? He only tore it down yesterday?” “Yeah, but here’s what I’m thinking. If he only brought it there yesterday, and the dump’s closed today on the Fourth, maybe we can find it if we get there first thing in the morning. Are you in?” I knew my dad would be. He always liked an adventure.

Next morning I was at his place by 7:00 AM, and he jumped in and we drove down the hill into town and over the to “land fill”. No longer the “garbage dump” filled with fiies and the worst smells in the world, burning garbage. Ah the good old days. Now they had recycling bins and places for house hold garbage. But where would they unload a pile of lumber from an old out house? I asked the attendant and he pointed to a dirt road in the back that lead up a steep hill. “If it was a pile of old lumber it’s probably in one of the brush piles up top. Have a look, but I can’t guarantee anything.”

We drove up the hill to be confronted with not one but several 20 to 30 foot tall brush piles. More like mountains. We stopped the car and got out. Hands on my hips it did not look good, but my dad suggested I take one pile and he would take another and just look around. I circled one, was halfway around the second and growing more discouraged by the second when I heard my dad yell. I ran over. “I’m not sure, but that does look like a bit of green paint on that old door up there. And sure enough just a few feet from the top was that unmistakable forest green paint of our outhouse door. I ambled up the pile making my way over tree limbs and boards with nails, and making the top knew I had found the one thing I was most looking for; the door of the old outhouse. I pulled it out, turned it over and there was the white paint with the initials “Tappy” and the letter “J” just below it.

I made my way down the pile holding the door proudly over my head like an Olympic Medal or Heisman Trophy. “Is that it?” my dad asked, and I turned it over for him to see the white side. “Sure it, there’s those initials carved in.”

I put the door in the trunk and drove back to the lakehouse and showed my mom the prize. “You two! I didn’t believe you would ever find it, but there it is.” I told her how we walked around the huge brush piles looking for the needle in the haystack but that green just cried out to us. “You know who “Tappy “ is don’t you?” “No, tell me.” “My cousin Jean. She was a few years younger than the rest of us, and we called her “Captain Tappy.” “She carved that in the door and started to do her name, that’s the “J” for Jean, then thought better of it not wanting to reveal who carved up the outhouse door. She still got her ass beat for it. Uncle Henry was a mean old cuss.”

I took the door home to West Virginia with me, and decided I would cut out the small area with the initials carved in it, then use the dark green for a frame. I had a friend of mine who was pretty handy with wood working cut out an 8 x 12” section and frame it with three inch wide forest green wood the other side. I used the small metal fastener to keep the door closed from the outside as well. There was hook and eye to keep the door closed from the inside but that was long gone. I wrapped the piece carefully and one Christmas I gathered all the family around and presented Jean with a Christmas gift so unique, it was one of a kind, yet something everyone there would immediately recognize and relate to. She was speechless when she opened it. “Oh my God, I haven’t seen this is a few years,” she exclaimed. I told her the story and she thanked me.

Jean and I had a falling out over a family dispute involving my younger sister and my mother. She didn’t like the way I handled it, and even when I made up with my mom and sister she still wasn’t ready to spend any quality time with me when I came to visit my mom and sis. Jean lived in the same area. I would always take the time to swing to the West Coast, several hours out of my way, to see my mom, and ask about Jean, but it was the same, “She didn’t like the way you treated mom.” I won’t get into that one other than to say I bought her a place to live in, and when my younger sister decided to sell her place and move in I told her I would have to charge her rent as well, lowering mom’s from $850 to $600 and charge Sis $600 to cover all my expenses; mortgage, insurance, taxes, maintenance. Sis got mad, moved out and three months later my mom followed her to help pay the mortgage on HER house. I got stuck with a piece of South Florida Real Estate in 2008. Need I say more? I stopped speaking to my sister, which made my mom mad and she stopped speaking to me. For three years. Until I reached out and made nice with everybody.

Anyway…Mom is 93 and Jean turns 90 in February, so I decided I would attend her birthday celebration and see if I could break the ice. Turns out, SHE decided she was ready to mend fences and came over to my Sister’s place this Christmas on my visit there earlier this week. Everything was back in place and she had a gift for me. The “Captain Tappy” plaque. “I was going to leave it to your sister in my will, but I figured what the heck, I’d give it to her now. I figured she would give it to you since you found it, so there it is. That’s the great part of life. It circles around for you, if you just give it enough time. And love.


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