Monday, January 7, 2008

Trespassing for Treasure: Searching High & Low

My husband grew up in an area east of our city. He loves to drive through the streets of his old neighborhood and relate stories of his childhood. He can point to house after house once the homes of his friends, schools he attended, corner stores where he bought treats charged to his dad's credit account because the store owner knew him. Ahhhh, the good ol' days!

There was one vacant and abandoned two-story building he frequently pointed out, telling me of the different businesses this structure had housed in his lifetime. He was certain it remained full of many treasures and itched to get inside. Imagine his dismay when, in passing one evening, he realized the structure was being gutted. A large backhoe and other heavy machinery was being used to level the land behind; the missing doors and broken windows made it clear the building was going too.

He parked, hailed a man standing nearby and peppered the man with questions. During the conversation, he learned that the contents had been cleared in a sale held inside the old building a month earlier; the wonderful collectibles were all gone. My husband looked so down-heartened that the man encouraged him to go inside - he might find something overlooked.

My husband spent about an hour exploring a basement room, rare in our area, and the ground floor. He was still empty-handed. Windows were open to the upstairs but there was no way to reach the second floor. The man explained that the upstairs had once been the home of the owner and his family and the living areas had been walled off years ago. The glint in my husband's eyes sparkled... but, he couldn't find a way to scale the outside wall.

It was a brick building, and outside it went straight up. Since the ceilings were very high on the ground floor, it was at least sixteen or more feet to the small upper windows. There was a bit of roof remaining in the front; however, it was unsafe for support or climbing. There just was no way- or was there?

The man whistled to the backhoe operator, spoke to him for a minute and then the driver drove to the side of the structure, lowered the scoop and motioned for my husband and I to climb in if we wanted a lift. My husband hopped right in and reached to lift me over. I hesitated long enough to make sure there were no worms, snakes or other crawlies in the scoop first. Then up, up, we went - right to the open window. One leg over and we were in!

Alas, there wasn't much to find. I craved the gorgeous floral wool rug underfoot but as my husband pointed out - years and years of dust had left it unsalvageable. In the closets, I found some wonderful forties or earlier hats - but the moths had beat me to them. We kept looking - thrilled to explore a little bit of this historical building before it was lost forever. An hour or two later, all my husband had found was a handful of Cracker Jack toys . After all of the excitement, it was time to go.

There was only one problem. The backhoe was still in the back field but the operator was gone. In fact, it appeared e'body was gone! We had obviously been forgotten....

My husband finally spied the man who had summoned the backhoe operator. Noooo, he couldn't lift us out - he had no key and yes, the operators of all of the heavy equipment had gone home for the day. The man left and returned soon with a rickety old wood ladder -about six feet tall. He leaned that old ladder against the side and supported it as my husband climbed over the window, backwards, and easily dropped to the top of the ladder. No problem, he's six foot tall and has long legs. Then it was my turn.

I froze, petrified. At five foot one inches tall, I lacked the advantage my husband had (and I'm naturally clumsy too). My husband started softly coaxing me to climb into the open window, turn around, ease off the side allowing my legs to dangle, and drop. He would be there to catch me. Ha! Any fool could see that I was going to have to free-drop at least three feet before he could catch me. He reminded me that it would be dark soon, the old building probably had rats, and...

"Trust me," he said.

With my heart in my throat, I asked the Lord to help my children forgive my husband because he missed, climbed into the window, turned around, eased over and dropped.

Would I do it again? I don't know - it would be a really tough decision for me. The adventure/trespassing or the drop? But maybe if this fellow offered us a lift?

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