Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 23, 2017

Shoe Scraper

By Curt Swarm | Aug 27, 2012

The main house I grew up in, from the fourth grade through high school, was a two-and-a-half story, pre-Civil War, behemoth called Maple Hill. Maple Hill was located one-half mile west of Monroe on a gravel road that was eventually blacktopped, relieving the dust problem.

We rented this house from a fine gentleman named Ulrie Clevenger. Mr. Clevenger lived in a similar house on the edge of Monroe, or one-half mile east of Maple Hill. Mr. Clevenger, besides farming, was somewhat of a handy man. The basement of his house was chock-full of every kind of tool you could imagine: drill presses, metal lathes, saws, mills, welders, you name it—most of them maybe as old or older than he was, which would have been in the 80s. Some of his “power tools” still ran off the old overhead pulley and belt system, which was a sight to see, and kind of dangerous for wandering fingers, like mine. It was an adventure just visiting Ulrie Clevenger's basement, the cool dampness, mixed with the smell of cutting oil and steel shavings, added to the wonderment of what all those tools could do. When farm machinery broke down, Ulrie, or his son, Lloyd, would repair the machinery right there outside the walk-in entrance to Ulrie's basement. A circular driveway surrounded the house, as was typical of big, old farmhouses. Many of the things we needed as renters, Ulrie Clevenger made, like storm windows, a picket fence, and hand tools for the coal-fired furnace.

Many, many people have lived at Maple Hill. And it's been purported to be haunted. When we lived there, we had no problem with the paranormal, outside of incidents that can happen with any old house, like the plaster falling off of a ceiling (Ulrie replastered that immediately), or the creaking and groaning of an old house in the winter, or mice running through the walls.

However, the haunted house story grew, and Maple Hill was featured on a Halloween Night, network television special. There before my eyes was the airplane-pattern wallpaper of the bedroom that had been mine. My mother had hung that wallpaper. I wanted to scream, “I slept in that bedroom and not a darn thing happened!” But let the ghost chasers have their day.

Any house that old, and with a name like Maple Hill, is going to become a landmark. Sure 'nuff, the house has been listed on the national registry of historic places. More stories surfaced that it had been a stop on the underground railroad, and that there was a secret tunnel running from the house to the barn across the road. Funny, we were never aware of any tunnel, and believe me, I shoveled my share of coal in that basement.

The house is in the processes of being moved to a location close to its original site. I have stopped by the house on several occasions and talked to the present owner. He let me look around and reminisce about old times. By the front door was a shoe scraper that I used many times as a boy to scrape that black Iowa mud from my shoes. Ulrie Clevenger made that scraper. I remember him driving it into the ground.

I asked the property owner if I could have that shoe scraper as a memento. He said I could, but I would probably never be able to pull it out of the ground, as dry as it was. I gave the shoe scraper a tug, and it was almost like the ground opened up and released it to me.

I now have that shoe scraper by my front door in Mt. Pleasant. Every time I see it, I think of Maple Hill, and of Ulrie Clevenger, and his basement full of tools.


Have a good story? Call or text Curt in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com


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