“Coleman’s little sister said you better act right, (Coleman)
Daddy’s gone to Louisville he’ll be back tonight
He’s gonna get another wagon and a good pair of mules
And we gonna move to Texas we just waitin’ on you.
Now you all been movin’ west since the day you got married
Well I’m gettin’ off the wagon, daddy, I’m too old to be carried
Gonna stay here in Kentucky where the bluegrass grow
I’m gonna play it all night down the new cut road”
To catch you up on my progress along the Oregon Trail with modern day muleskinners, Rinker Buck and his brother, Nick, our heroes, have spent the 4th of July at Fort Fetterman in Wyoming and are now restocking and repairing their wagon in Casper, getting haircuts and buying work gloves, preparing for the next leg over the dry high remote ruts leading up to South Pass.
And in Tarkio, boxes are stacked and marked, carried upstairs and down. Plastic tubs and dresser drawers, sleeping bags and high school trophies, winter coats and mantle clocks, all and sundry slid into the back of family pickups. Sweating the big stuff: the hard maple dining room table, the new leather chair, the 8 foot long hand-me-down leather couch, legendary by this, it is seven to-and-fro through doors it was never designed to egress.
Movin’ out, it’s an American pasttime….and family trait, I guess. Blake and I sit on our front porch and tally moves, kind of a parlor game, a trip down memory lane. Our first move: to a duplex south of Columbia for our final year of college and first year of marriage. Contents: a turquoise couch, a double bed, a gold Maytag washer and dryer, the repossessed T.V. of a Nigerian college student. I didn’t love the couch and immediately covered its tweedy glory with a nondescript brownish throw. Foolish ’70s girl! That ’50s/’60s artifact may be fodder for Pinterest these days. Yeah, and maybe Harvest Gold appliances will be stylish again, too.
Next time, it’s a short move into town, making room for baby number two. We add a big old upright piano, its bulk establishing our family as solid, serious, and settled. Well, not so much, as that piano went out the door and down the three steps of N. 4th and up the three steps and in the front door of RR#1, Westboro, just three years later.
Let’s talk about the kids. We took Lee to college and up the elevators of Jones Hall in one load. During four years at Mizzou, she lived in three different apartments after the dorm, all involving moves across town and two of the three involving flights of stairs. No pianos, but I did make one trip north driving blind with my insides in knots and Lee behind me with her car’s hazards blinking after the electrical system on the pickup and trailer threw craps. I blew right by the scales with a hard luck story on the tip of my tongue and one stop by the Highway Patrol already under my belt. Some moves are more stressful than others.
Moving Ann to Washington, D.C. for a summer didn’t involve furniture, but is memorable as a classic example of being penny wise, pound foolish. With an entire summer’s worth of bedding, clothing and other indispensables compressed into a backpack, a roller bag, and a six foot long canvas duffel, we decided to catch a shuttle bus from BWI (’cause we were saving money) to the train station (’cause we were saving money) that would end up at Union Station in D.C. where we would board the Metro (’cause we were saving money) and wind up walking the last six blocks to American University, our final destination (’cause we were saving money). Five hours later, blisters on our hands and feet and holes worn in the duffel from dragging it behind us, we limped into Union Station, whereupon I did not pass GO or collect $200, but put an end to the madness by hailing a cab. Some moves are more stressful than others.
Ben’s moves have both logged the most miles…and contained the most tortuous staircases. Soggy stairs at the dorm, narrow fire escape stairs on Wash Ave., dicey basement stairs on Clemens, and four flights up to the steamiest summer residence ever, the torture chamber just off Kingshighway. Fortunately, St. Louis eateries reward those moving experiences with tasty meals and frosty mugs.
The staircase tally is relevant because Ben currently holds the family record for furniture most likely to protect you in case there’s a tornado, the 4 or 5 foot square massif of slate and wrought iron that is categorized as a coffee table and has proven impervious to all efforts to dismantle, destroy or discard it by those charged with moving it during the last decade. It’s a beast. I fully expect that coffee table to accompany Levi to his first apartment years from now…but I don’t know who will volunteer to carry it!
For now, the dust is settling and the trucks and trailers will return to their normal duties of hauling pigs and hauling plants. My piano left its own trail ruts in the hardwood floor at Spruce, but has now held down its corner of this front room since October of 2002, the same month Lee and Ryan moved into Lee’s childhood home. That winter, Ann and Matt made it three for three with their purchase of the painted lady on College.
That’s the kind of transience our forebears recorded routinely in Oregon Trail days when kith and kin got the movin’ fever bad and hit the road for new lands with high hopes. A better place to call home: to carry your house on your back, drag it behind you, set it down again, and ultimately, pull a Brigham Young and declare “this is the place.”
“Movin’ out. Just the prelude to ‘comin’ home.’
You’ve been saying for the longest time that the time has come.
You’ve been talking like you’re of a mind to get some changing done.
Maybe move out of the city, find some quiet little town
Where you can sit out on your back porch step
And watch the sun go down.”
Mary Chapin Carpenter
August 24, 2016