Until you paint every nook and cranny of a house, repairing cracks and spackling hundreds of nail holes in the most peculiar places, I don’t think you really get to know her. Standing on a rickety ladder looking at the top of the never-before-painted dusty door moldings or lying on the kitchen floor painting the floor trim underneath the built-in shelving, you become pretty cozy with one another. Until then, I’m not sure you can really claim her.
We’ve painted every square inch inside our Munger Place home. And because of this, we can confirm there are no square inches in this house. Her floors slope and creak and doors shift from time to time resulting in the reappearance of certain hairline cracks. Like wrinkles. After 102 years, she’s allowed.
Years ago, I worked with a strange girl who bought a 60’s ranch style home near Ft. Worth. Once she was settled into the home with her furniture and children arranged to her liking, only then did she paint around the furniture. The trim behind the couch was stained dark brown but on either side the trim was white. If a chair was slightly budged from position, the dark trim behind it would shine like a rotten spot. HOW did she sleep at night? I could barely even go inside, just knowing this.
When my mother turned 40, she decided to paint the outside of our home in Arkansas. After years and years of living in a boring white house, she thought it was high time for a color change – beige. Willing to tackle the project single-handedly, she explained her plan to Daddy who was completely against it. He felt sure she would get one side painted and quit. He feared her painting work ethic would be much like her cotton-chopping work ethic. The Tate girls weren’t his best cotton choppers.
She ignored his advice, didn’t mention it again, and patiently waited a few weeks until he started picking cotton. Now, if you weren’t raised on a cotton farm, you may not be aware of the delicate art of picking cotton. When the bolls burst open, there are only a few weeks to harvest before the yields begin to decline. So there’s no lollygagging around during this time. No sleeping or eating, no laughing or vacation days, no television watching or smiling. It’s an amazing race against Mother Nature, and not for the light-hearted. To keep things interesting, this all happens just at that time when vast tropical storms are lined up back to back in the Gulf of Mexico.
Daddy left the house before daylight and dragged home well after dark. And he worked 7 days a week until all the cotton was out. The first day he started picking, Momma started painting. High up on a ladder, she painted the eaves, the side, around the windows, all day every day. She cleaned up or hid all evidence before he lugged himself home late each night, dog-tired. She collapsed each night as exhausted as he, sore and achy. For a couple of weeks he unknowingly snored in a two-toned house. The next morning, she started back again right after he left. She too was in a race.
|Tate Farm House |
aka BAT cave
Perfectly timing the entire project, she was finishing her last day of painting on his last day of picking. And that’s the day he decided to come home for lunch. Driving into the driveway, he saw her atop a ladder painting the last section of the house. He must have been shocked. He must have laughed to himself. The entire house was a different color. And the shutters were brown. She washed her hands, made him a sandwich, and he never said a word about it. Ever.
While he was busy picking cotton, he had no idea what had been going on under his roof. Of course, he never really did.
Johnny Cash, “I Never Picked Cotton”
Miranda Lambert, “The House that Built Me”