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Friday, September 7, 2012

"Part of the Truth": Buying a Country House


The House  (My photo taken 77 years after Hicks purchased it.)

"Late one Saturday in May, after our third or fourth excursion, we came home completely discouraged, to find advertised in the local paper an eight-room farmhouse in good condition, fifteen miles from Troy, price reasonable.  We were disillusioned by this time and it was with high expectation that I called the real estate agent Monday morning and arranged to visit the house in the afternoon.

The road from Troy to Grafton was in bad shape, and the agent, a dour and fussy man, drove it with exasperating caution, keeping his eye on the temperature gauge as we climbed and climbed.  Finally, the road leveled off, so that we were riding along a plateau, with a house here and there.  We came to a cluster of three moderately prosperous-looking farms and then a gas station.  "Hold the little girl tight," the agent said.  "We're turning up that hill.  It's steep and the road is rough."

We made it safely, and followed a narrow, winding dirt road between green fields that stretched back to woodlands.  At the top of a second hill there was a farmhouse on one side of the road and a barn on the other, both weather-beaten but solid.  Beyond that was another house with a whole cluster of barns and outhouses around it.  Although he had been driving slowly enough anyway, the agent braked the car.  "We're almost there," he said.  But there were trees on either side of the road, and we could see nothing.  "There it is," he said, turning into a drive that was merely a pair of wheel tracks and stopping beside a butternut tree.

We weren't immediately impressed: it was just an ordinary story-and-a-half house, painted yellow.  But as the agent led us around to the front, across a little patch of lawn and beside a row of hydrangeas, we felt a touch of excitement.  The house was better from the front, simple and well-proportioned, and there was a splendid maple in front of it, as well as a row of maples along the road.

The agent let us in, and we took the house room by room.  Stephanie now holding my hand, now her mother's.  Each time I looked at Dorothy the glint in her eyes had brightened.  Small as the house had seemed from outside, there were indeed eight rooms, some of them, especially the kitchen, of a goodly size.  Then there was the broad porch that opened off the living room, giving us a view to the east, across fields bright with the greenness of May to woods and, far beyond the woods, to mountains -- the Taconics, with Greylock behind them.  We forgot to look at beams and sills; we didn't ask any questions wary house hunters ask.  We were shamelessly ignorant and, as ti turned out, ridiculously lucky."

 Hicks, Granville. Part of the Truth. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965.

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