Urban(ish) Archaeology

by Stefani on 30-May-2007

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Isn’t it lovely? It is one of the places my mind wanders while I’m standing over sink full of suds or a pile of unfolded unmentionables.

That house is just outside of the city limits of Marble Falls, Texas. Marble Falls is one of those quaint little towns that is quickly becoming a weekend destination, and hence not as quiet and simple as it once was. This house is on the outskirts, but the outward sprawl is closing in fast.

I don’t know why I am so fascinated by that house. I do know that I’m not alone. Every spring, as you’re driving to Sweet Berry Farm to pick your own, you come upon this breathtaking sight. Along the barbed wire fence no less than 20 people and their tripods will be clicking away. You can’t help but join in, but I kind of feel sorry to be a part of the fray, buzzing about her faded glory. I feel wrong somehow, like I’m taking something by enjoying the beauty of this place without knowing and acknowledging the lives that were lived out there.

I have dug around, and can find out very little about its former inhabitants. I know that it was built by Christian Dorbandt some time before 1910. He was Mormon, as were many of the settlers of the area, had 11 children, and apparently a soul that blooms in blue, like the poem,

“She is coming my own, my sweet.
Were it ever so airy a tread
My heart would hear her, and beat.
Were it earth in an earthy bed, my dust would hear her
And beat.
Had I lain for a century dead,
Would start and tremble beneath her feet
And blossom in purple and red” (Come Into the Garden Maud, Tennyson)

Seeing this place, and the cameras clicking ’round it, always makes me think of another poem too, by the 2004 Poet Laureate of Texas, Cleatus Rattan (how could you not love anything associated with a name like Cleatus?)

Can These Flowers Live?

Maiden Aunt Mary, always Maiden Aunt
Mary, hair as short as the heels
on her black shoes, read the bible
every hour she wasn’t sewing or gardening
or dressing to go to town for church.
She read to prove she had missed nothing
but the prophets and hell’s fire.
She made no bones about her perennials
and planted way up there, in the middle
of the north pasture, her purple violets
and other flowers no one has names
for now. They are there, still defying
cash crops, fleshing out each year
and blessing, always blessing,
Momma’s grave and Poppa’s.
Cars stop and men take off their hats,
then mop their brows while women
take pictures, preserving forever
the acres of purple flowers
in the middle of cotton,
replanted year after year.

And this story that I once heard on This American Life.

You can see, this house, and its fields of blue, make me think, a LOT! So, I feel it only right to say, Mr Dorbandt, wherever you are, you are thought of, fondly, even still.

erin May 31, 2007 at 6:25 am

It is quite stunning – I can see why so many people set up their tripods.

Relyn March 20, 2009 at 10:18 am

This. This is exactly why I love you.

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