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By Joseph Dempsey Hand House

Sunday, August 2, 2009

This crumbling abode, northeast of Parkdale, Arkansas, at the top of its game, was probably never the “big house” on the farm where it stands. It is within spitting distance of the road and has but four rooms with no evidence of indoor plumbing. None of these conditions were normally part and parcel of the farm owner’s place of residence, the “big house,” in the heyday of this deteriorating domicile.

One presumes the house was built to provide shelter for a field hand or hired hand (and family), whichever hand term you prefer. In normal conversation, the modifiers are mostly eschewed, so the term is simply “hand,” referring to an employee as in, “It’s gon’ take eight or nine hands to get this year’s crop out.”

Sometimes the house was considered part of the hand’s pay, as in, “Cletus, I’ll pay you a hunner’d a month and tho’ in that house.” Since most “hands” were not real estate owners, perhaps it was not such a bad deal.

The house is typical of a hand house in size and layout. For sure there was an outhouse, so the residence could be properly described in real estate parlance as “four rooms and a path.”

The fake brick siding is actually something akin to composition roofing, which was rolled on the house and nailed in place with roofing tacks. It has a tarry smell and is a ready source of fuel for a house fire. The good news is, the siding did stop the chill winter winds from whistling through the cracks in the winter. This house probably saw its last residents in the late 50s or 60s — if it lasted that long.

In its time, the house served a good purpose and probably provided slightly above-average family accommodations under the circumstances. Now it is but a curiosity.

The picture below lets you take a glimpse inside, since the weather has been nice enough to remove most of the wall facing the camera. There was evidence of several layers of wall coverings, which were applied one over the other. The house was built well, or else it would have dropped in its footprint by now. Its current highest and best use is probably as an occasional shelter for a wandering critter — and to let us know how things were, leaving us with the conclusion that we probably like the conditions now over the conditions then. Duh, let’s hear it for indoor plumbing.

hand house

N O T E S:  
Nikon D300, ISO 200, Nikkor VR 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 G ED, tripod mounted both shots. Post processed in Photoshop CS4 Extended and Genuine Fractals print pro. Both images are composited from several exposures. The base exposure for the full house shot is 1/320 @ f10.

See more of this old house, including a couple of closer looks inside the rooms; also an old store with an Amoco sign, on our blog, Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.
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Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog.  — J. D.


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