This and the photographs in the previous 3 posts were made on the same plot of land in Pittsboro NC, on one corner of where 15-501 and US 64 intersect. One quadrant/corner has already been bulldozed down to the orange clay, and a Lowe’s, McDonald’s and combination Taco Bell / KFC erected. Another quadrant sports houses, like dominos lined up so close on the cul-de-sac streets. The developer, the same that built Meadowmont in Chapel Hill, advertises on the radio how this housing development will be “just like Meadowmont, but on a diet.” I must not be the target audience, because neither situation sounds like somewhere I’d want to lay my head down at night.
The quadrant in the photographs was a trailer park for many years. From the looks of the single-wide designs, many of which are the same model, they have been here since the late 1960’s, or early 1970’s. The land has been for sale for the last two years; a “for sale” sign erected the day the by-pass was completed. Slowly, but surely, I saw each trailer lose the car parked in front of it each night, as families moved out. When I visited last week, a “Sold!” sign as big as my Volkswagen was nailed over an even larger sign, its paint now faded, which advertised “available.”
I am inflicted with this weird fascination of place. On weekends I am supposed to be watching sports with other males, but I am instead driving around, finding an old building or interesting piece of land. I walk around, scratching my head, making photographs, and try to figure out what went on here so many years before.
The day I walked this piece of land, now sold, I was at first blown away at how fast vandals and theives can circle around like buzzards on anything vulnerable. Many of the single-wides have blown out siding, where men have taken crowbars to the metal and asbestos, looking for copper pipes or anything that may be of value underneath. In the interior of one of the trailers I witnessed where one family had moved out and left many pieces of furniture and belongings behind; and old rattan couch, and a double bed. Everything is now strewn around by someone looking for something to take. A Disney Cinderella book sits alone on the built in kitchen counter, proof children recently came home from school and found this tin-top to be home.
I keep walking around and realize this trailer park was born out of a farm field. Later I find a barn and other outbuildings on the back of the property, but I figure out the farm field origins by the flora. The grass, now unmowed for a season, is not the grass we plant in our half acre plots, but fescue and other farm grasses. The grass is thick and unruly, ready for livestock to feed. Cedar trees line the fence rows. An oak leaf hydrangea and a crepe myrtle stand unkempt beside an old tenant house.
I have witnessed this so many times, with envy. Those families who owned the big farms have so much in value. This farm used to provide wealth for a family, earned through daily hard work. As farming waned, and kids moved away in the increased mobility and unrest of the 1970’s, the farmer could replace farm income with trailer park rental income. And, on the same land he used to grow crops. Today, in North Carolina’s race to bulldoze any piece of land that will stay still long enough to accommodate everyone in the world that seems to be moving here, the farmer, maybe 80 years old, or even dead, will provide for his extended family with the millions of dollars he receives from the sale of his old farm.
The sad part to me…the land is at its most beautiful now, with green fields, majestic trees, and the old vines that pull at the branches. The irony is…30 to 50 years from now, whatever they build here, a grocery store, or movie theatre; won’t be cool enough, or new enough for anyone to shop there anymore. The land and buildings will be abandoned, new stores and homes built down the street. And, the vines and weeds will start to take the land back again, just as they are now pulling apart the single-wides here in these photographs.