I’ve said before that if there are No Trespassing signs up, I obey, but if not, all bets are off. Sometimes though even without a sign, people can be watchful. Protective. Good neighbors. Recently I had two encounters with folks while I was out photographing abandoned properties. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more. They were both positive, although one was a little odd. First the nice one.
This old house is right on a main state road. Not hidden or out of the way, but the traffic isn’t heavy and there was plenty of space to park so I stopped. I didn’t go in, but walked around getting different angles and absorbing the atmosphere. As I was heading to the car another slowed and stopped. I walked over to it and the man driving asked me if he could help me with anything. I explained what I was doing and he said the house was his. That it had been in his family for a long time. He was probably around 80 years old and had a pile of crocheted pillows on the passenger seat. For his wife? Did she make them?
Anyway, he said he was sad that it was in such disrepair, but things happen and you can’t keep up with everything. He was proud it was still standing though and went on to explain that many years ago a tornado came through and took out the barn. Like many other a finicky storm, it left the house right next to it untouched. He has no plans for the property. He was nice and we parted company.
This next one was a little less friendly, but wasn’t bad.
I’d been poking around behind this house when I saw and heard a truck come by. It turned the corner and stopped. I could hear the engine and listened for doors opening and closing. None came. We couldn’t see each other because this was in the way –
The truck is there, just hidden. I’d already been on the other side and photographed the real devastation in the back. But I was feeling a little nervous and wanted to wait him out. No avail. We were playing chicken.
Unfair since he was in a nice warm truck and I was outside. Eventually I walked out and down the driveway, big camera in my hand.
The guy turned around and parked near my car. Stopped and turned off the engine in the middle of the road. There’s something to be said for the edge of nowhere. I walked over when he asked me what I was doing. A sarcastic response bubbled up, but I kept it inside. No need for confrontation. Instead I hefted my camera and explained. He said something like making sure I wasn’t going in and stealing anything. What, in this Alladin’s cave of riches?, I thought, but again kept it friendly. No, just pictures and that I really was struck by the sadness in the state of things. He softened a bit and said the owners lived a little to the south and didn’t come up here much. We chatted a little more and then he drove away.
He was just being careful. Hard to fault that. People do steal things…I mean, check out that barnboard! It occurred to me that I should have some business cards with me and offer to share prints of properties with the owners. A gesture of some kind. As it is I wonder if the guy I talked to got in touch with the owner and told him about out encounter. I wonder how he would have characterized it. Did he suggest a gate or no trespassing signs? I’ll never know, but it does put things into a little different context and made me think about connecting better with the people that I may meet.
I kept going, stopping and shooting. After all, It’s what I do.
In the post about Ruined Cabins I mentioned stone foundations and how common they are. Often they’re the only things left of a building, especially a barn. Just check out these three (and the one next to the house at the beginning of this post) –
I think the middle one might still be in use. There was some hay there, but I’m not sure how old it was.