The story of how I found this little farmhouse is a really special one that involves a little bit of luck and a whole ‘lotta Godly intervention. Until now, I honestly haven’t taken the opportunity to tell many people the story of how I made this place my home because trying to describe such an encounter with fate felt like too daunting of a task. Like trying to describe the way you felt on your wedding day or the way certain people make you feel – some things just can’t be put into words and be given the justice they deserve.
When it came time for me to move on from my internship at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, I had two obvious options: pursue a career in Photojournalism and move to wherever a job became available or to pursue my growing photography business back home. Tom and I had been together over 7 years at that point and I know it seems like the choice should have been obvious but it wasn’t. There were so many doubts that came along with moving back to Middle Georgia: would people think I had failed? Would I get bored? Would I be able to make a living being a photographer?
On weekends when I would come home for photo shoots, I’d spend my spare time looking for houses. Eventually, we found one in Perry within my price range — it was a quaint little cottage with potential, but it needed extensive work. Still, I was up to the challenge but I knew it wouldn’t be a forever home. I was driving from Fort Valley to Perry one Sunday afternoon to go see that house that we’d decided to make an offer on — I had time to kill, so I turned onto Clopine Lake Road to go the back way to Perry. That day was the first time I’d ever really even noticed the small, white house with a windmill out back. I stared at that little house for a long time before driving off. But the price was significantly higher than my budget allowed, so I tried to forget.
Then one day my dad called me while I was at work and told me the house in Perry had sold out from underneath us. As I continued my house search, the little white farmhouse wouldn’t leave my mind.
I convinced Tom to arrange a tour with the renters a week later and as I walked inside, I saw toddlers running down the length of the long hallway in nothing but a diaper. I saw flour and utensils scattered across the kitchen counters at 1 a.m. the night before Thanksgiving. I saw breakfasts being cooked at midnight. I saw a clothesline hanging with damp clothes in the backyard. An enormous Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. I saw work boots caked in mud lying by the backdoor. A tire swing hanging from a pecan limb. I saw hayrides and bonfires. I saw two rocking chairs on the front porch. Pumpkins cascading down the front steps in the Fall. I saw photo shoots in the side yard. Chickens scratching the dirt under the shade of a pecan tree. Wind chimes in the breeze. A fence where my dogs and future dogs could play. As I toured this house for the very first time, none of these things were there yet. But I knew I wanted them to be and I knew I wanted to be the one that made them happen. The home was beautiful, but I could tell that no one had made it their home and loved it deeply in many years.
I also realized that there wouldn’t just be good times if I could live here. I knew I’d have to say goodbye and bury dogs here, eventually. I knew there would be fights and bad days. But I felt that despite what pain could come our way in the future, this place would always work its way back into our hearts as a place of peace. Touring the house and the property surrounding it felt very much like coming home to me.
So, we made an offer. And I’m going to shorten this part of the story, but just know that it included a lot of fingernail biting and that the man that I bought this house from has a bigger heart than he’ll ever admit to.
Many of those things I mentioned above have been brought to life – memories that we will cherish forever have been made in this house and I know there will be many more to follow. Then one night I got a message from a lady that I didn’t know.
“Dear Ms. Culverhouse, you don’t know me but I have enjoyed looking at your pictures. I really took an interest when I saw where you took so many of your pictures. I was reading your blog about your haunted house and wanted to tell you that I practically grew up in that home. My Granny and Papa lived there from about 1954 until about 1987. It was a very happy lived in, loved in house. All the grandchildren have the best of memories there. I had a very prankster of a granny and she loved to scare us and tell us there was a ghost there. I wanted you to know that for 30 something years so much family loving went on in your house that it has to have good vibes. It makes me so happy to know that someone that will love the house is there. It was and will always be one of the most special places in the world to me. Debbie Hunnicutt”
As I read her message, tears filled my eyes because I thought perhaps I’d found the last person who had loved the house as deeply as it deserved. As time passed, Mrs. Debbie and I began to talk occasionally online and met in person several times. Then one day she asked about doing a photo session of her 94-year-old Aunt Hilda, 93-year-old uncle, Algin and his wife, Waverlyn, and 82-year-old Mother, Jean, whose parents were the ones who lived in the home.
Last Thursday, as 94-year-old Hilda stepped out of the car at the place of so many of their happy memories, she wrapped me up in a hug and said, “Honey, this feels like coming home.” All I could do was look at her, smile, and say, “I know.” Over the next hour, we all laughed, took some pictures, and they gave ME a tour of the house as it was all those years ago. Where the old piano sat. Where they put their Christmas tree. Where games of hide-and-seek were played. Where their granny had her clothes line, which coincidentally, was only a few feet away from where my dad put mine. It was, and always will be, one of the most special hours of my life. Days like that erase any doubt and make you realize you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be — picking up where they left off making memories in this little house.