Their destination was a two-story farmhouse with dingy white vinyl siding and a light blue trim. Vinyl siding isn’t a hundred and fifty years old, Brad thought. And, yet, it looks old.
“When did they put the siding on?” Brad decided to ask even though he had his own guess as to the answer.
“I’m not really sure,” James answered as he opened the passenger side door. After getting out and closing his door, he looked at the house, trying to remember when the siding was added. He shielded his eyes from the intense sunshine, for he wasn’t use to being outside for extended periods of time.
He turned toward Brad, who was already standing outside the car, and with one hand, leaned against the hood. “I think I remember it being my great-grandfather who did that …” James paused to collect his thoughts.
Multitasking, as he often did, he also worried at that moment he might get sunburned. “With his son,” he continued, “which would be my grandfather, so maybe in the 1980’s.”
Forgetting the vinyl siding for a moment, Brad saw the tremendous porch. From his vantage point, the screened-in porch wrapped around at least two sides of the house, possibly encompassing a back porch as well. The west side of the house, which had no porch, was comprised of a one-story section. There were two doors connected to the front porch area, one leading to each section of the house.
Commenting on the layout, James said, “Interesting fact: that one-story section to the left there was added during the 1930’s.”
“During the Great Depression!” Brad widened his eyes in amazement, and then shook his head in disbelief. “How’d they do that?”
“Well!” James laughed. “My family didn’t do too bad during that time.” He stepped away from the car, heading toward the house. Then, he turned around, shaking his left index finger in the air, and saying, “It’s hard to tell today, but once upon a time my family had a lot of money, especially for Mississippi farmers.”
Brad closed his door and pressed his thumb on a glossy segment of the handle to lock the car. Normally, only his thumbprint would lock or unlock the car, but before they left the city, he programmed James’ thumbprint into the car’s computer.
Once Brad caught up with James, he said, “Wait, y’all are well off even today.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” James replied. “But, I wouldn’t call it a fortune. If you combine all my cousins, aunts and uncles, and the generation before that who are still alive, we probably don’t have as much proportionally as we did a hundred years ago.”
“Wow, that’s a lot!” Brad stared at his friend, not knowing exactly what else to say. To find out that his friend’s ancestors were actually rich rendered him speechless. After a second or two of silence, he came up with a question. “Where did all the money go?”
“The real money was five generations ago, and there were plenty of people each generation to inherit some of it.” As James explained, the two of them moseyed closer to the porch.
“By the time it got to me” – James brought his right hand to his chest as an emphatic gesture – “I didn’t see any actual inheritance. It was more like I grew up in a nice house, and my college was paid for out right. Wherever that money came from is anyone’s guess.”
James was the first to reach the porch, so he held open the screen door for Brad. As Brad stepped over the threshold, he said, “I’ve known you for many years, and you have never mentioned this before.”
James let the door slam behind him. “It’s old family history. There’s probably a lot more that I could tell you if you so desire.”
“No thanks,” Brad responded. “Not right now, anyway. Perhaps another day.”
James pulled out an old fashioned key and unlocked the main front door. As he walked in, he said, “There is one thing that I can not tell you … that I wish I could. We don’t know where the money came from. They were farmers, and as far as we know, they didn’t own any slaves before the war, either. They would have had to be poor. Then, something happened.”