My Ticket for the Underground Railroad

  • February 25, 2015

Today, I told my son a story today about the good guys and the bad guys. The bad guys chased the good guys to a house where they hid in the walls and the attic and the basement. When the bad guys came, they looked everywhere for the good guys, but they played hide-and-seek so well that the bad guys couldn’t find them anywhere. So the bad guys left and the good guys went to hide in another house and one day lived happily ever after.WrightHouse

I introduce you to the Wright House–this picture is from six years ago but I think you get the gist. This sad looking stack of bricks may not look like much, but this house was an important part of the underground railroad. Between 1840 and January 1st 1863, more than a thousand slaves traveled through this station on their way to freedom.

Now let me tell you about how I happened upon this magnificent monument.

The day began shortly after my third cup of coffee–everything before that was a blur. I can tell you that the caffeine kicked in sometime between bundling up the kids and packing them into the Subaru. My mission was to get them away from the TV. This winter has been brutal in that respect. I hate the cold and I must have passed that along to my children.

So the three of us set off on a grand adventure with no particular destination in mind. We ended up in nearby Latimore Township. Latimore Township is my most recent obsession. With the exception of South Middleton Township, I have yet to find another township that packs such a historical punch. You know that seventeen-hundreds mill that I’ve been patiently waiting to detect until Spring? Latimore Township. That swimming hole that my uncle told me about? Latimore Township.

The greatest part about all of this? Unlike South Middleton Township, Latimore has NO restrictions or ordinances against metal detecting. How do I know this? I know this because our grand adventure took us to the Latimore Township Municipal Office. When I told the kids that we were at the Township Municipal Office with the same inflection as I would tell them we were at Chucky-Cheese, they were just as excited as me.

And boy, was it exciting! They had one of those water dispensers with the cone-shaped paper cups. My son filled at least four of them, keeping me well hydrated while I chatted with the ladies in the office about my mission for permissions in Latimore Township.

When one of the officers overheard our conversation about the famous underground railroad house, he gave me directions and even called the owners to let them know I was coming. Unfortunately they didn’t answer the phone, but he assured me that they were very friendly people and I could just stop by–THAT is why I love small towns.

So we loaded back into the Subaru and headed off in the direction of the underground railroad house. This is when I told my son about the bad-guys and the good-guys. He then asked me to retell the story five times before we actually arrived at the long dirt road that led to the Ludwig farm.

20150224_121805_resizedI knew before we got to the end of the driveway that this farm was a dairy farm. Anyone who has ever been on a dairy farm knows that smell. It was just like visiting grandma and grandpa in Fabius, NY.

Once again I unloaded the kids and a black dog with a graying muzzle came shuffling up to meet us. She had a big doggy smile and a wagging tail. You must understand, I am a dog person. I love dogs. I have five of them, so I am pretty good at interpreting aggressive behavior. I knew before I even got the kids out of the car, this was a friendly pup.Screenshot_2015-02-25-10-53-26_resized

She led us to the barn, where we knocked and waited for a response. Nothing. I could hear music blasting inside, so I knocked again. Nothing. My son retreated to the car after complaining it was too cold. I decided to give it another go. It paid off. A woman answered the door.

I could tell that I had caught her off-guard and started right in on my metal detecting pitch. You have all read my writing. I can write. But when it comes to talking to strangers, I get all tongue tied and fidgety and lose my breath. I am a wreck. But I wanted this permission SO bad that I just went for it.

She invited us into the barn and apologized for the smell. I remember being at grandma and grandpas house and the manure smell outside was so bad that your nose hurt. This was nothing.

I could tell after talking with her for a few minutes that she had been approached by people in the past who must have given her a hard time about the building being in such sad shape. She started out by telling me that they didn’t have the funds to repair the old house, which I completely understand. I don’t think that most people understand the cost associated with fixing up these old homes–especially the cost that it would take to fix this particular home which has been reduced to brick walls.

wrighthouse1920After getting a little tongue-tied and frustrated with mincing my words, I finally just expressed to her my motives for metal detecting and dump digging. I told her that I love history. I’m not in it for the profit. I just love feeling that connection with the past whenever I uncover an historical relic. THAT is why I do this. That is why I put myself in uncomfortable situations with complete strangers.

She must have sensed my passion because she gave me permission to search the old underground railroad house. I have never felt a greater accomplishment in this hobby. The old mill permission was great and good… but this… this is everything I hope for in this hobby.

As soon as this blasted winter is over, you know where I’ll be.

OH… and when I climbed back into the car to take my kids out to lunch, my son says “I smell cow poop.” Yes, Ashton… mommy smells like cow poop.

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