A hoper dreams of doing

We have a real historical treasure on our street — an authentic log cabin from pre-Revolutionary days, built as a stopping post for soldiers traveling between posts (like Fort Necessity to Fort Pitt). It’s situated on a gorgeous 3-acre lot, lovingly cared for by its longtime owners, Thelma and Bob, now in their late eighties or early nineties. They actually live in the house behind ours; their lot was once part of ours until the owner subdivided it so his son, Bob, could build on it. (So yes, that means Bob, now 90 or so, grew up in the house we live in, and now lives just one house behind it.)

We see them frequently working at the cabin, caring for the house and grounds, and every morning their headlights shine in our bedroom window as they set out on some daily ritual — coffee perhaps? They are lovely, vibrant people, and we always welcome the chance to talk with them. Sometimes, though, it seems we only get together when the fence between our yards catches fire…

It’s kind of a hoot. Bob’s burn pile is in the very back corner of their lot, right next to the back corner of our lot and the dividing fence. Unfortunately, he likes to burn on windy days, the fence is old and decrepit (another “someday” project far down on the to-do list), and twice now, he’s caught it on fire.

Last Saturday, Chris next door called down that we were needed for fire-fighting detail (Bob had flagged her first, calling out “Little help! Little help!” as he smacked the ground with a rake and sent Thelma for a bucket of water.) A few minutes later, as we were busily tossing charred fence rails into our own burn pit and watching their fire for flare-ups, Thelma once again shared some stories of the cabin. She and her first husband bought the place when she was only in her early twenties and she has fascinating stories of its history and her life there over the years. They’re stories any writer (even a hack for hire like me) would drool over, and all I could think was, “This needs to be down on paper before it’s lost.”

Mike said as much, and she only laughed and said others had told her the same thing, but she was just so busy, she hadn’t found the time. I suggested all she had to do was talk into a tape recorder. Mike, the bold one, offered that I was a writer, and I immediately said I’d love to work with her on it.

We chatted for a half hour or so, then went back to our chores, with promises to stop by for a visit to see the cabin this summer and hear more stories.

If I was an assertive person, I’d knock on Thelma’s door tomorrow, tell her how much I’d love to help her capture the cabin’s history, and would work with her whenever she wanted, however she wanted.

But I am not that person.

Instead, I’ll hope for that visit this summer, hope to hear more stories, hope to say again how much I’d like to write them down for her, hope that somehow, magically, it will happen in spite of my shyness.

I’ve always been a hoper. Maybe someday I’ll be a doer. That’s what I’d really like to be when I grow up.

The vision must be followed by the venture.
It is not enough to stare up the steps — we must step up the stairs.
~Vance Havner


  1. Rege said,

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    You could borrow my video cam.

  2. robbie said,

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    It’s easy to be a hoper. I’m more hoper than doer. But in this case you should push yourself and become a doer. Not only would you have fun, but the satisfaction of saving just a little bit of history for posterity is immense. If you’re a little slow at work, turn this into a project for that new blog. You’ll feel a loss if something happens to Thelma before you get off your………..

  3. WritingbyEar said,

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Rege, thanks. Sounds hopeful, ha ha.

    Robbie — you sound just like the voice in my head.

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