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Five years later…

The essay below I wrote for my environmental history class last year. The essay was about a place that was dear to you and the relationship that place had with the environment.  Today is my parents 18th anniversary.  They’ve got 18 years of an odd combination of newly-weds/old-wise-geezers under their belt  Longer than either of them had with their previous spouses who both lost their lives to cancer. It is an understatement to say this is a milestone for their incredible marriage.  So I thought I’d post this essay first, because I’ve been a worthless pile of turds when it comes to my blog that last couple weeks, and second because the essay is partially a tribute to their good parenting/marriage.

April 29th will also mark five years since my childhood home burnt down, which the essay helped me find a deeper, more peaceful reflection of that big event in my life.  It’s hard to believe… seems like yesterday I was at Acquire the Fire (a Christian youth seminar in Denver… the irony of the name is not lost on me… believe me.)… I was at Acquire the Fire with my best friend Travis and we were trying to scope out cute girls.  We’d just lined our cross hairs on a couple McSlimmys and I got a call from my brother Mick.  He said our house was on fire. I told him this wasn’t a funny joke. He told me this wasn’t a joke and if I didn’t think he was serious he’d come to Denver and sow my butt cheeks to my face (a little Seinfeld reference).

Five years later that conversation would go a lot better between Mick and me. Five years later we have another house that is already filling with memories.  Five years later and I can more honestly thank God that none of our family was killed in that fire.  Five years later and I have hair under my armpits.  Time can truly heal a lot of seemingly impossible things… So anyway, here’s the essay. I think it will always be one of my writings I’m most proud of:

There is a hole in the ground two and half miles south of Chugwater, Wyoming (population: 244) that will always be my home. It sits in a cozy treeless valley where the waves of the Great Plains start to break on the beaches of the Rocky Mountains. A strong and steady western wind for windmills and plenty of grassland for cattle identifies the village of Chugwater as a rural and ranching community.

In this friendly, hard working, slow-paced small town my immediate family of seven was blended together. When I was fourteen months old my biological father, Rev. Charles B. Westerman, died of a brain tumor. A year and a half later my mom married my father, whose wife had also died of cancer. So in April 1993, my mom and her three sons  “Brady Bunched” families with my current father and two older sisters.

This is when I first moved into the hole that I call home. It was a gorgeous house with odd sized rooms. There were four bedrooms for the seven of us, and a very large sunken upstairs living room with a high ceiling and both solar brick and wood covered walls. The oak cabinets bridged over the fireplace and served as barriers between the kitchen, dining room, and living room, leaving the house open and large, but tight and cozy at the same time. The den, which featured a skylight, a piano, a couch, and a computer served as the trunk of the house as all the other rooms seemed to branch off of it. The basement featured a long stain-resistant carpeted room for playing and watching movies (one time me and my sibling even held a water balloon fight down there).

Needless to say it was a home with great character, and a home that really got ‘lived’ in. With no fast food restaurants for 25 miles, we ate dinner at home, and as a family most every night. In the midst of five children living in it, 46 Blue Rock Road was full of life, sound, and spirit. It was my castle, my bed, my gymnasium, my restaurant, my toy chest and my friend, and then on April 29, 2006 it lit on fire and ceased to be any of those places.

One year later we lowered another house into that same hole that was to be the new 46 Blue Rock Road. It too is a fine house. The right sized rooms make it a more functional home, and the see through fireplace, plank-like hardwood floors, and warmly painted walls all give it character and originality. It is in the process of being filled with memories and getting fallen in love with. Although it is not the house we were blended together in, it symbolizes that God has been faithful to our family and once again brought beauty from the ashes as he did by bringing our family together.

Both houses have been places that coincide with its natural surroundings as naturally as possible. Our first house as I mentioned, featured a solar heating wall, while our second house was built with a high efficiency heating system put in.

However, what really makes our hole in the ground ‘green’ is the heads of the household. My father, is a rancher who respects the land from which he reaps. He is constantly stopping his pickup to pick up somebody else’s scrap of metal that was littered in one of our pastures. He is constantly shutting off the lights, locking the windows, and closing the doors in order to conserve energy. He also has pastures he has not grazed and gave them to the Conservation Reserve Program.  My mother also does her part by recycling. If you think transporting all of your recycling forty-five miles to Cheyenne with five kids is easy, you can’t truly appreciate her effort.

So even though I have lived in two different homes, I have always lived in the same hole. The hole where my family was blended, melted, and built again. The hole that sits at the center of our ranch and from it’s view I can see my childhood playground and my provider. I look around and see my full-grown tree patch that my father planted when he got there in 1982. I can see the wood and hay forts my siblings and I built when we were little. I can see our sledding hill, our trampoline, our barn, our dirt road, the plains and the mountains. Yes, when I look around I see my past, but the beauty of that hole in the middle of nowhere is when I look up. With no light pollution around, on a clear night the stars are overwhelming in number and splendor. It’s then that I can see my future.

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About ananiasgo

Charles Westerman is a freelance writer, songwriter, school bus driver and murder mystery theater actor living in Portland, Oregon. He grew up on a ranch in Chugwater, Wyoming as the youngest of five kids and graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Journalism and English Lit. in May 2012. In between driving his Jr. High minions back-and-forth from school, he is currently at work writing his debut literary novel, Where Heaven Meets Cheyenne and its sequel. A two-part telling of the story of his ordinary family that came together in an extraordinary way. For the past two and half years he has worked to tell this story with honesty, excellence and honor to the characters who made it possible.

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