The Farm Chronicles: The cellar

Beneath our farmhouse, which when I was young, was over 140 years old, was a dug out cellar. Nowadays, people would call them a basement. Not so at the farm. It had undergone many renovations over a century and a half being the meek foundation upon which my great grandfather seven generations back built that old two-room house with a bedroom loft. At that time it was dug out by hand with field rocks stacked one upon the other. It had a dirt floor then. When my grandfather added on to the house circa 1840, the cellar was expanded, but still dug by hand. When my Dad and Mom moved in, they dug the cellar floor deeper and poured concrete for the floor. It spruced it up a bit, but it was still—a cellar.

The story goes that when Mom and Dad remodeled the house in the early 1950s, they upgraded the cellar by putting concrete steps coming out of it. In doing so, the corner of the house was collapsing and they needed a quick fix. They couldn’t quite get the corner up enough to put in the last foundation block. A conversation ensued about what to do next because they lacked the proper tools and leverage to lift up the corner of the house. Finally, Dad had enough talk. It was time for action. He told his crew (I don’t remember who they were, but probably Warren McCarthy and Earl Jones were among them) to get ready with the block and he would raise the house up himself. Dad latched on to the corner of the house with his back to it, and with a perfect squat, he lifted the corner of the house up enough to put that block under it.

Even with the modifications every 50 years or so, the cellar was a scary place. Old rough sawn wooden steps led down from a landing inside a door from the kitchen. You had to be careful descending the steps because you could hit your head on the other steps that were leading to the second floor. It was dark, only a couple of lights were down there. It was where the fuse box was for the house. Imagine going down there in the dark with a candle or a flashlight to change a fuse with the floor wet from heavy rains. It was a place where Mom washed the clothes in an old wringer washing machine for years. We stored canned goods there. And we always had to watch where we were going because it was often kind of a muddy mess even with the concrete floors as the drainage never had been properly installed.

One time we had a tornado hit the farm. Mom and Dad woke us out of a deep sleep because the wind was so strong. We lit lanterns, and hurried down into the cellar. The noise outside was like a freight train and we all huddled together until it suddenly passed. The next morning, many trees were down, but our house and barns were standing strong. And that cellar, crude as it was, proved to be not only a safe harbor, but also a strong foundation against the storm. That house still sits on that foundation, that cellar. Like Paul charged in 1 Timothy 6:19, we all should lay up in store for ourselves “a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” Christ is our foundation, and though life has modeled and remodeled us like that old cellar, we can stand against the time to come. Be inspired today. We can make it.

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Bill Wilson