• R. Gurley

The House on Jane Way

Mick likes to walk as much as I do. It’s one of things I like about him and I suspect it is one thing he likes about me. We walk together every day, in the morning and in the night.

Mick and I met a neighbor this morning on our walk. An older man about seventy sitting on bumper of his Ford 350, smoking cigarettes.

“Beautiful day for a walk,” he yollered over the wind that always seems to blow.

“Sure is,” I yollered back.

“I drive out here five times a year just for this sky,” he said.

I asked him where he traveled from. He replied Oklahoma, somewhere near Tulsa. I told him I had an aunt that once lived in the OK state. This led to introductions. He said his name was Paul. I told him my name and Mick’s as well. I also told him I was living in the cabin across the street.

“I married the granddaughter of the woman who built that thing.”

He laughed.

“Divorced her too. Sorry,” he looked up at the sky and took a drag off his Camel.

I had heard a woman built the house I have come to fix. I asked the man about her.

“Name was Petey. Her sister, Martha, built the house behind her. “

I asked when Petey and Martha had done this. He squinted as he thought.

“Mid 1950’s?” he guessed.

“The government was giving away 5 acre lots back then for $50 if the buyer promised to put a structure on the property within 5 years.”

I thought of June Cleaver when I pictured women in the 1950s, not women sitting on a bare 5 acres of sand with a hammer and a nail.

“Petey and Martha weren’t the only ones,” my neighbor added, “there was a woman named Jane who built the house at the end of the road. I think they worked together in Long Beach during the war. She seemed to be the leader of these ladies. They even named the street after her- Jane Way- until Jackass Joe moved in and change the name to his after Jane passed.”

“Jane is my grandmother’s name,” I said to him.

He smiled big.

“Welcome to the neighborhood!” he said, “I’ll tell my daughters that there is a woman living in Great Great Grandmother Petey’s house again. They’ll get a kick.”

Mick pulled at me to let me know he wanted to continue on the walk and to cease this human nonsense of chitter chatter. I shook the man’s hand. Mick and I returned to our walk of the land covered in creosote and sage, a land developed by women and not men. I could almost hear my grandmother whisper.

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