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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The USA (01/08/09)

TITLE: Our House
By Tim George


“Come on in and sit a spell.”

I paused at the door of Clark Dobb’s pond house and willed away the expression of amusement I could feel trying to force its way through the very pores of my face. Truthfully, no one would have blamed me if I had entered laughing my head off. Clark’s house was a two room affair sitting on stilts in the middle of his little catfish pond. Steel cables ran at crazy angles from two sides of the cabin in opposite directions and were staked out in the fields beyond the water’s confines. It seems Clark hadn’t counted on the poles his house sat on shifting and the cables were his vain attempt to keep the place from tilting crazily one way or the other.

“Grab a chair,” the grizzled man muttered, “I’ll be with you in a minute.”

As I pulled up a lawn chair I knew instinctively this was one of those experiences I would write about one day and no one would believe. No one, that is, except those who were lucky enough to be allowed into Clark Dobb’s inner sanctum.

There he sat in his faded black Naugahyde recliner in nothing but his boxers and too worn t-shirt. He and the chair were fused into one lump of Mississippi August sweat making it hard to tell where furniture ended and man began. He never turned to welcome me. There were more important things at hand. Things like the cane pole he held extended out the window next to him and Saturday afternoon wrestling on an ancient Philco black-and-white two feet in front of him.

Between a two pound channel cat and the three hundred pound Masked Assassin he found time to share with me bits and pieces of his life experience, his suspicions about the “government”, and his ponderings on eternal mysteries. Clark was the son of share croppers, the great-grandson of a Civil War hero, and the great-great grandchild of Scottish Highlanders. What he owned had been gained through sheer determination, and the pain in his back was thanks to three years in the Pacific theater during World War II. And the wisdom he possessed … it was more surprising than anything else I experienced that day.

I discovered later that others in the community thought Clark to be a bit “touched”. After all, he owned hundreds of acres of prime timber land but you couldn’t tell by looking at him that he had more than two dollars to his name. Then there were his infamous projects: his failed attempt at raising a new super strain of South American worms, his short-lived excursion into the recording industry, and of course, his cockeyed pond house.

As I started to leave he set his pole down; “Could you do me a favor before you go?”

I smiled; “Sure thing.”

He pointed toward a faded flag that hung from the roof outside. “Could you take her down for me? It’s going to rain and I don’t let nothin’ desecrate her. I know that seems foolish but the old USA’s been good to me, and that’s the least I can do for her.”

The longer I lived in that community the more I realized one couldn’t judge Clark Dobb’s by his shabby exterior. For every dollar he had lost in some crazy venture I discovered he had given two to others in need.

Travelers passing by that pond house only saw a strange old man living amidst a hodge-podge of junk. But not me. I saw a living illustration of the country he fought for, put up with, and loved. A country of wonderfully insane contradictions. A place where we foolishly waste fortunes on South American worms while at the same time give even more to those who only dream of attempting something so bold. A place where the greatest of intentions are held in place by the slimmest of hopes. A place where a few are even willing to die to ensure others the right to ridicule those who died for them.

I guess travelers passing by our house see an eclectic accumulation of half-realized dreams, failed endeavors, and accidental successes. They see a house seemingly pulled in all directions at once. And perhaps some are even right when they say we are a bit touched. Even so, it’s our house and we still believe in the colors that hang from her eaves.

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This article has been read 4409 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 01/15/09
These lines are particularly wonderful: "A country of wonderfully insane contradictions. A place where we foolishly waste fortunes on South American worms while at the same time give even more to those who only dream of attempting something so bold. A place where the greatest of intentions are held in place by the slimmest of hopes. A place where a few are even willing to die to ensure others the right to ridicule those who died for them." Very good.
Trina Courtenay01/16/09
Makes one think...

Blessings on your writing.
Joanne Sher 01/17/09
Incredible descriptions, and I especially like the last couple paragraphs. Beautiful.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/17/09
You introduced a real, wonderful American character to us.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge01/19/09
An interesting character that probably exists somewhere in this great land.
Jan Ackerson 01/20/09
Love the descriptions of the "inner sanctum", and the quirky character you created.
Chely Roach01/22/09
This was superb.Congrats on the biggest of wins...you so deserved it.
Sheri Gordon01/22/09
Congratulations on your 1st place. This is beautifully written. Clark, and your MC, are great Americans.
Glynis Becker01/22/09
Congratulations on a wonderful entry! Beautifully descriptive and deeply touching.
Sally Hanan01/22/09
An excellent piece with beautifully written insight.
Paula Titus 01/22/09
Congratulations Tim! I particularly enjoyed the last paragraph- powerful writing.
Myrna Noyes01/22/09
Congratulations on your top-flight entry! The characters were delightfully drawn, the scene wonderfully described! Excellent writing and worthy of first place honor! :)
Mona Purvis01/23/09
Clark Dobbs was so well "shared" with the reader that I think I know him.
You did a sophisticated approach using common man. Made me think. Congrats on winning.
Charla Diehl 01/23/09
This is a great story with a powerful message. Your descriptive writing made every sentence come alive for me--especially the MC. Your final paragraph wrapped this up nicely. Congrats on a well deserved win.
Debbie OConnor01/26/09
Wow! Congratulations, I can certainly understand why this piece took 1st. I don't have to read another entry to get that. This is the perfect analogy of our wonderful, conflicted, generous, yet slightly "touched" country. God bless you for writing it! :)
Ashley Nicole 01/28/09
I can see why this entry placed first. Though I haven't read the competition, I would have given it high markings as well--such excellent characterization in so short of space. I enjoyed the actual writing as well, like the phrasing: "Clark’s house was a two room affair sitting on stilts in the middle of his little catfish pond". It made me chuckle myself, sharing in the amusement of the narrator. I suppose you need more critiques than praises, but I can't offer that on this one.
Claudette Wood04/28/09
good stuff, Tim. very good.
Joanne Sher 07/01/09
Sooooo good Tim. SO glad I had a reason to read this again - and CONGRATULATIONS on third place in BoB!
Lynda Lee Schab 07/01/09
CONGRATULATIONS, TIM! Your entry is wonderful and so deserving of a place in the top 3. :-)
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/01/09
Congratulations, Tim, on being in the top three for BOB. The character you created so skillfully deserved a winning place.
Loren T. Lowery07/01/09
Congratulations, Tim. Reading this one has little doubt as to your ability to write and develop memorable characters that leave an imprint on our hearts and minds.
Sheila Deeth07/01/09
That's neat. Thought-provoking, draws the reader in to see something different and see through different eyes. Congratulations.
Kate Grey07/01/09
Really cool analogy, Tim. And lots of colorful and interesting words. Congrats on your BOB placing.
Karlene Jacobsen07/02/09
Tim, Tim, Tim; excellent work. The descriptions in here are so vivid.

Congrats on 3rd place BoB!
Beth LaBuff 07/02/09
I knew a man like this. This so aptly gets to "bottom line". Congrats, Tim, on the high honor you received with this story!
Verna Mull 07/02/09
What a neat story. It should teach each of us a lesson on judging another. Everyone here has been created by our God, and for a purpose. You certainly brought that thought out. Bless you, and, may we all learn the lesson well!
Genia Gilbert07/05/09
Congratulations on your BOB award! It is well deserved, and speaks so truly of our USA. With all its faults, we're so blessed to be here.
Brenda Shipman 10/04/09
Loved reading this! What a fine example of how an ordinary encounter with an extraordinary person can turn into a story that carries so much inspiration. Congratulations on your well-deserved win!
Marilyn Schnepp 10/07/09
Absolutely brilliant! A read that not only fascinated, educated, touched me and almost moved me to tears with the simplicity of the story. Written like a Pro - and well worth your Win. (Haven't read the 1st and 2nd winners as of yet - but when I do...I may even come back to tell you I liked yours best! Congratulations! Better late than never! You gave me a new look at our Motherland...and at a time I needed it badly. Thanks! Great job!
Carol Penhorwood 10/26/09
Very poignant! What characterization! Can't even imagine any criticisms. Great writing!!
Sharlyn Guthrie01/21/10
I am quite late in congratulating you, Tim. Better late than never, though. I enjoyed your USA story very much,and I'm so glad it placed in the Best of the Best.
Donna Wolther03/16/10
Wow. That was fantastic. Our house is a mighty fine house indeed. Thanks for the reminder.
Catrina Bradley 04/04/10
Congrats on being #3 BOB!!!!!!!! :-D