Landing on the Rabbitpatch - Part II | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's note: Please join me in welcoming Author Michele Rhem, who presents us with her poignant memoirs of the Rabbit Patch, where her diaries weave tales of a simpler, expressive life lost to many, but gathered together in her most familiar environs - the Rabbit Patch.

    The very next day, after Miss J, accepted my offer- her real estate agent called me. She talked very fast, as if she was late for something, but I heard her say, that I was required to make a $10,000 dollar down payment to proceed. I apologized, for I had not even counted on that. "Oh dear!" I said. "I have an amount saved, but it will take all of it, to just make it livable" and I apologized for wasting her time. Then she asked, what I had planned on ... and I said, without a bit of thought. "Nothing." Now she was shocked. We hung up and I did feel sorry to have been so ignorant of the business of buying a house.

    In my defense, I had never bought a house, by myself. I must learn the business of buying a house, I thought . . and then I ate my lunch.

    "Lo and behold!" The agent called that evening to say, the down payment was waived and that Miss J would finance the house for two years, while repairs were made, so I could then finance it through a bank, (like a "normal person" would, I thought, later). This time, I would have a contract, protecting me from calamity.

    For weeks, I worked on the old farmhouse, after work. Mama and Daddy lived just fifteen minutes away, and they helped me, Daddy had to work on the water pump, right off. The boys gathered tires, tin, bricks and car batteries for days, for the territory was littered with such things.

    One day, a lady came and introduced herself as "Miss Sylvia" She gifted me with a cookbook from the ladies in the community. I liked Miss Sylvia right off. She was my first friend in "Farm Life" and the cookbook is now, my favorite one. Another time, a truck with four men came. My boxer was raising cane about it. The driver asked me if I were going to "call him off" and I said "I don't know just yet." The driver, then introduced himself and the other men, as neighbors who were there to help, should a need arise. I called the dog off and thanked them. The driver said, "you have a bad dog, but he is handsome." I said "Tell everybody, you know!"

    For several weeks, folks came to welcome us. Everyone of them asked me how in the world, I bought the place, for as it turns out, many of them had tried to buy the house or knew somebody that did, over the years, but Miss J wouldn't hear of it.

    For the next two years, we worked every hour afforded. We tackled the barns and the territory. One winter, we made the wooded path. We had no machinery and so it took a long time. One Saturday, I had worked til about dark. I was dirty and so tired, I walked in the back door, threw a sheet on the couch, and laid right there-dirt and all. I was asleep in minutes. The phone rang and I did not care. I could hardly move. The phone rang and rang, but I was too tired to even go answer it. Suddenly my neighbor Molly, burst in screaming "Your barn is on fire!!!" I sprang up like a rocket and ran like I was young ... it wasn't the barn, but a burn pile, had ignited right by an old barn. -Never build a fire on peat soil, for it will spread underground and pop up anywhere. We worked til almost midnight.

    I planted flowers and bushes, that second year. The whole place became one big garden. We also made a vegetable garden. I would not even allow fertilizer in it-we used our compost, instead. I have never used any chemical where our food grew. I made an herb garden, too. I painted flowers on some of the barns and verses and hung wreaths, till at long last, the man from the bank came.

    On that day, you could have eaten off every floor in the house. He walked around and looked at every part of the house. He was a likable man and we chatted easily. When the tour was done, he began writing on his papers and assured me that all was well. I said "but you need to see the land and the barns . . ." He smiled and said, "no, I have what I need." ... and I said "You are going to see the barns." He chuckled and agreed, to appease me. Goodness, we had spent every day of that winter working and somebody needed to know that! So we walked and he looked at the barns. The biggest barn had been converted to a a rustic dining room and I had tables with gingham cloths draped over them, and curtains to match. There was an old china cabinet and upstairs, there was old iron beds with clean sheets . . . and a balcony. ( And yes, we did camp out in that barn, on occasion) He walked the wooded path, too for he was that good natured.

    He left, applauding my efforts and assuring me, that I had met the criteria to get the loan. The boys were so anxious to know if we had made it. I said joyfully . "Yes! " They asked "well, what are we going to do now? " I said "go play". . .and they did.

    That is how it happened. I named the place the "rabbitpatch" for several reasons . . .one being my maiden name is "Warren", which means basically, where rabbits live. There is a large community of rabbits here, that love apples and strawberries, well gardens too. Then, my Lyla was born on Easter Sunday and so the name just fit.

    More than a decade, has passed since all that happened. The years were filled with picnics, family reunions, egg hunts, tea parties, Sunday dinners and Jenny and Wills' engagement party. Grandmama spent her last years here. The boys became young men and I got older, and so did the house and the barns.

    Miss Sylvia was my friend, a dear one, to the day she died. The truck full of farmers, were as dependable as they had said. They removed fallen trees here, when hurricanes hit, fixed the lawn mower, hung chandeliers and the year my garden drowned, they brought produce by the truck loads, here. One neighbor , Susan, now mows my yard when my mower doesn't work-which was most of last summer. "Uncle Donnie and his wife, "princess Leyta", and Jamie at the horse farm, well, there are a lot of good folks, in Farm Life.

    I am not sorry for any of it, for there have been some golden years at the rabbitpatch. One day, I will move to a little house, on a little rabbitpatch and I will plant flowers and an apple tree, at least. I will certainly not leave empty handed though for I have tucked the memories deep in my heart. Just maybe, you really can "live off love." and if you can, then I am a "big shot" who hit the "jack pot"!
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