Painting a house, meeting folks
Gray paint flaking off the single-story house welcomed me to Marion. I hadn’t painted a house since college, which was 20 years ago.
My wife and I and our toddling daughter had just moved from Los Angeles to Marion in August. It was a little bit of a hectic move, stuffing our worldly possessions in our car and U-Haul trailer and driving from the West Coast to Kansas. My wife was excited about moving back home, and my daughter and I were excited to have a rural adventure.
I had worked as a reporter in Southern California, as well as previously in the Midwest and New England. But we would be starting from scratch in Kansas. After living with her folks for a month, we moved into our new rental home on Cedar Street in September. We could always use extra cash, so when my brother-in-law, who owns a few rental houses in the area, asked me about painting a house, I accepted.
I borrowed all kinds of things from my father-in-law’s shed: a ladder, plastic tarp, caulk gun and scraper. I perhaps should have borrowed a radio, but I decided that some good old-fashioned quiet in the country air was what I wanted. The first day working on the house was hot and I forgot to bring water.
The friendly lady whose house I was painting brought me cold, bottled water. I scraped up plumes of blistered paint off the house while grasshoppers shot out of the way.
The neighbors waved at me and soon we were trading small talk. I asked one how she liked living in Marion.
“Oh, I like it,” she said, adding that she moved here from another small town.
“I like that it’s laid back,” she said.
After I had scraped the house and primed it, I brushed the first coat of yellow on the siding. Another neighbor wandered over.
“You’re working so hard brushing on that paint,” she said.
“I got a big paintbrush just for the job,” I explained.
“Rollers,” she said. “Use rollers.”
Rollers, I thought. That might work well. In fact, they did. The second coat rolled on much more quickly than the first.
While applying paint, I met the gentleman who lived next door with the squeaky screen door.
“I have to laugh at that yellow color,” he said. “That’s the color the house used to be painted years ago.”
He told me about the man who used to live in the house I was painting. He raised homing pigeons in the shed. After the man died and the house was cleared out, a pigeon returned about four years ago. The pigeon made a nest at the top of the house and had a family of little pigeons.
Life goes on, we agreed.
As yellow leaves fluttered to the grass in the sunlight, the neighbor said, “It’s a beautiful day.”
It sure was. And I’m going to keep listening to what the people of Marion have to say.
— ed pilolla
Last modified Oct. 29, 2014