“Who are you looking for?” I asked. He gave me the address.
“No, I mean who’s the person?” Numbers don’t mean much around here, because there is no logical structure to the neighborhood.
He was looking for Deb, who lives up the hill a way and behind the house we were standing in front of. I pointed the way, and off he went, another victim of Meeker Park’s incomprehensible and off-the-grid layout. Neither GPS, Google nor Mapquest do much good around here, partly because there is no cell phone coverage but also because there are few official streets.
Meeker Park has one county road, which the government plows in the winter and repairs when needed. The rest are cobbled together from bits of people’s property to create the semblance of a road that offers access to four or five houses. Someone may decide to give it a name, something whimsical like Blue Jay Lane, or for the first person or family who lived on the road. My road honors Bill Waite, a solitary and private man who lived at the cabin next to mine (his old shed, above) for 40 years and was reportedly horrified when he found out the county had named a road after him.
Nothing is on a grid, and property parcels come in every shape and size imaginable, with no rhyme nor reason. It’s a nightmare for surveyors and title companies because property lines blur and overlap. My neighbor’s plans to put in a septic system took several extra months because the title company’s search for the owner of the property that abuts theirs turned up 200 conflicting claims. The company said it was the most challenging title search it had ever done. It turned out the “road” that connects all of our cabins is actually private property that belongs to one cabin owner, whose property is not even contiguous with my neighbor’s property.
In trying to figure out how this could have happened, my neighbors discovered that all the property in our neighborhood (encompassing about 10 cabins) was originally owned by one woman, who started selling off bits of property in a messy fashion. If one man said he wanted to build his house on this slight hill and only wanted a small piece, she sold it to him, and if someone else wanted the property that extended along the river, they had a deal. At some point, what was left was sold to the last buyer, who ended up with a small, strangely shaped bit of land.
All this has resulted in directions to outsiders that go something like “When you go over the creek, you’ll see a house on the right that has a child’s swing set on the side. After that, turn right where you see signs nailed on the tree. The top one says ‘McIntyre’s Manor.’ After that, you’ll come to a green house on the right, with an old washing machine in front. We’re right across from that house, the one with the red door.”
Old-timers have their own way of giving directions, usually involving people who have lived here a long time: “It’s past Mrs. McGovern’s place.” Lillian McGovern died long ago, and there’s been one or two new owners of the ranch since then, but her name is indelibly stamped on the property, partly because she was a long-time and admired figure. She and her ranch have become part of accumulated history. It’s different than the city and suburbs, where people move in and out too fast to leave stories or imprints, and there are not enough old-timers to remember.
I’m glad to live in a small part of the world where the human connection is more significant than technology, where humans (and animals) and their footprints still matter.