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To hear Europeans tell it, we Americans are always on the move, always ready to pack up and take off to see what's over the next hill, or on sale at the next mall.
But it was that restless attitude that inspired our forebear to settle this vast continent in a little over a century. Millions of Americans and newly arrived immigrants were willing to travel by steamboat or train to places like St. Louis and then set off by covered wagon to settle the west.
Even now when most of the country is pretty much settled some still don't like to stay put.
After our covered-wagon period we Americans moved on to recreational motor homes and pop-up campers. Some people bought mobile homes just so they could pick up and move whenever they felt to urge.
Back home there was a family - the Strouts – who carried on the American tradition. They had a mobile home and loved to move - not across the continent but from one part of town to another. They seldom went far but if the Strouts thought there was a better water source in another part of town they'd slap the wheels back on their mobile home and they were gone - often in the dead of night.
Sometimes a simple dispute with neighbors was all they needed to inspire a move to another lot. This - of course - was back in the days when quarter-acre house lots were plentiful in town.
When the Strouts moved to a new lot they usually said it belonged to a relative who lived out of state and was therefore heir-ship property. Occasionally a dispute arose over ownership of a particular lot but it usually took so long to have survey's done and papers filed that the Strouts would be off to another lot before anything was resolved.
While on a particular lot the Strouts always liked to store a lot of what they called “essential” items and they stored them all around their trailer. If they stayed long enough the essentials would fill their dooryard and parts of abutting yards. Before long the small lot was filled to overflowing with such 'essentials' as old refrigerators, bath tubs, engine blocks, car doors, hoods and windshields, wood scraps, a few old boats, broken bicycles, wrecked ATVs, wood stoves, gas stoves, electric stoves, televisions and other broken family entertainment items.
Neighbors who shared a road with the Strouts would eventually complain that the place looked like a dump, but old man Strout would insist that he had plans to use every single item on his lot and he considered none of it to be junk.
Eventually the disputes with neighbors would become more heated and the Strouts would slap some wheels on their trailer and move on. In every case the essential items old man Willey insisted were part of his future plans never made the move but always remained behind for others to deal with.
I thought of old man Strout the other day when I read in the paper that someone in the next town wanted to move a three-story house a few blocks up the main street to a bigger lot. Not being as mobile as a mobile home the newspaper article described some of the issues that had to be resolved before the home could be packed up and moved.
First he signed up with a rigging company to actually jack-up and move his house. That was the easy part. Then followed months of board meetings and collecting piles of necessary permits from the selectmen, the police and fire departments, the public works and public safety people and, of course the water and sewer board. He then had to arrange with the electric company to have trucks and crews on the scene to guide the mammoth house under all the high tension wires.
Remembering old man Strout and his family, I bet the owner of that house wished he could have slapped some wheels on his old place and just dragged it behind his pickup to the lot up the street. And I don’t know how much this fella paid for the move but he did end up with a bigger dooryard for storing his essential stuff.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at mainestoryteller@yahoo.com or 899-1868.
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