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Memories of the 9 Mile House

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1968 to 2001
Location: 957 N Nine Mile Road, Liberty, Indiana, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: Leonard Waltz
Profile manager: Kelly Leonard private message [send private message]
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This page is a collaborative space. Anyone with memories of the house is invited to contribute and note their authorship accordingly.

Memories from Kelly Leonard:

I recently found a 1972 aerial photograph of the house I grew up in. The house was still home for me in the years after I moved out and went to college. Since I only lived 2 1/2 hours away, I went back to visit often.

My dad, Donald Raymond Leonard (1933-2001), built the house out of Bedford limestone in 1968--about 5 1/2 years before my birth. The year it was built is engraved in the stone on the right side of the garage. It's set on 7.5 acres of land purchased from the Four Mile Stock Farm, which was owned by my mother's family all the years I lived there. A picture of the main farm buildings and the house where my grandparents lived is also available in the same vintage aerial photograph collection (Photo 5-OUN-5). I eventually learned that the other properties around it were owned by not-too-distant cousins and that my Great-Great Grandma, Eliza Ann (Marshall) Leonard (1826-1856) and other relatives are buried in the Pentecost Cemetery on the northeast horizon.

Family tree: https://www.wikitree.com/genealogy/Leonard-Family-Tree-10833

About 1.5 acres of the property was fenced as a yard with a 1/8-mile driveway leading to the 9 Mile Road. There were two out buildings when I was a kid that were used to raise chickens. Later, when I was in college, I helped my dad build his woodworking shed next to the remaining red building we simply referred to as the "chicken house". One of his many woodworking projects in his retirement included whirligigs modeled after birds and other animals. He would give them away to family and friends.

Many trees in the aerial photo are no longer standing and were left as stumps I remember around the yard growing up. Tree species around the yard I remember include beech, maple and walnut. Actually, all of the walnut trees might have been just outside the yard, as they would produce large nuts every year, and their outer shells would stain your hands green. Many other trees were planted after the photo was taken, including a row of hybrid poplars along the driveway and another row in the middle of the yard for shade.

There was a garden planted during many years of my youth on the north side of the yard by the edge of the property. Mom always had flowers planted around the yard and around the house. There were always flowers potted or hanging on the small front porch next the garage or the large concrete back patio that spanned most of the length of the house, where I spent a lot of time playing as a kid.

Friends and neighbors enjoyed several different yard games over the years on the level playing field the yard provided. I can remember lawn darts, volleyball, badminton, whiffle ball, and frisbee, just to name a few. The enjoyment of the yard for games decreased dramatically as video games increased in popularity.

In his later years, my dad constructed a small in-ground fish pond in the southeast corner of the yard. He raised goldfish and lilies in the pond. It was a great source of enjoyment for him in his retirement.

Water for the house was provided by a well that was located near the northeast corner of the house. It had a square heavy metal rusty cover on it that I think was made of iron. I think my dad probably welded it out of something else because he had that skill. The well was frequently hit by lightning that shook the house and ensured that we never used water in the house during a storm.

The flat terrain offered unobstructed views of the western sky. This was ideal for watching storms roll in, which was a favorite pastime of my dad and I.

Many of the interior walls of the house were covered in wood paneling. This, along with the popcorn ceilings reflect the style that was common in the era it was built.

The rooms were small by today's standards but had enough space to squeeze in a queen bed and a dresser. My dad even tightly squeezed in a large recliner in the main bedroom that he used when talking on the CB to many friends and family.

The kitchen had a bar dividing it from the family room and enough space for a table seating six when moved away from the sliding glass patio door. The kitchen also had a window carved out of the wall as requested by my mom in the build so she could talk to guests in the living room.

The closet laundry room was off the family room. Another open closet sat behind the kitchen on the way to the half-bath (no tub/shower) and main bedroom. The full bathroom was in the middle of the house across from the two other main floor bedrooms. It featured a laundry chute with a mirror door that was used to drop laundry into the basement when the washer and dryer were located there in the early years of the house.

All rooms were carpeted--even the full bathroom, which often caused problems during humid summers when moisture couldn't adequately be vented out of the room. Back then wood floors seemed old, rustic and uncomfortable. I think the idea of tile also seemed cold and uncomfortable, too, especially when stepping out of the shower or bath.

The house had a full basement with a smooth concrete floor. In my early years, Dad had a system of oil tanks setup for burning wood to heat the house. It was his pride and joy to show anyone new to the house, and it worked really well to keep us all warm throughout the winter months. Sometimes problems with the system would cause smoke to fill the house, though. The wood stored in the basement also resulted in some unwanted insects in the house--namely wood crickets that I would chase down when they would keep me awake at night. At some point in 1980s, Dad stopped using the wood-based system to heat the house, and we began to rely solely on the electric baseboard heaters throughout the house.

Dad also used the basement for projects--repairing equipment or building something new to improve quality of living in the house. He was skilled with electricity, plumbing and machinery.

Before my oldest brother moved out of the house, he built a bedroom into the basement by adding two walls in the southwest corner. After he moved out, that room became my play room. It had a pool table, all my games and my black-and-white television.

There's a basketball goal attached to the roof at the front of the garage in the aerial photo. Both my dad and one of my brothers played basketball in their youth. I enjoyed playing games of horse, but that was the extent of my playing basketball. So once the goal deteriorated, it was removed.

I used to ride my bike around and around the house on the concrete sidewalk that surrounded it. I would take a shortcut though in front of the house through the grass, much to the chagrin of my dad, because it resulted in their being a muddy bike path there in the rainy seasons and bare ground the rest of the time.

I enjoyed playing in the standing water in the yard after a lot of rain, especially in spring. Since we didn't have a pond, the standing water was a place to play with floating objects or conducting rudimentary studies in hydrology. Again, sometimes my ways of using the yard didn't align with the vision my parents had for maintaining its beauty. Neither I nor the dogs would hesitate to dig holes or trenches if it pleased our imaginations.

Fall resulted in some beautiful foliage I only now appreciate by living in a place that lacks it. Fall also brought a lot of fallen leaves, and these would pile along the fence row like snow drifts also would due to the strong winds that blew across the open, harvested fields. One year while burning some brush, I set the north fence row on fire that was covered in fallen leaves. I ran in the house screaming to my brother who simply put it out with the garden hose.

Snow was also a great source of fun in the yard. One storm I built tunnels through the drifts on the north side of the yard and was able to coax one of our dogs to join me inside to explore them. One year there was a sled riding event for family and neighbors on the hill by the field next door. I was too young to have vivid memories of the event, but the photos show everyone had a great time--except that my Grandma Waltz broke her tailbone on one of her rides down the hill.

The family farm had a heard of cows that would pasture a large part of the acreage, including the grass just across the fence from our yard. I enjoyed watching the cows, but I didn't interact with them very much. Grandma Waltz would often warn us grandkids about avoiding the bull. So I generally avoided the cows on my many walks around the farm property.

I developed an early passion for maps and geography. The cow paths through the farm were like highways in my imagination. I once create a "highway" map of the farm that included numeric designations and symbology imitating the US interstate, national and state road systems. Wider, more traveled paths were the "interstates", while the more narrow, less traveled paths were "state roads".

There was a period of time in my younger years when I remember bonfires being a big social thing. The area on the other side of the fence from our yard was a nice place for that. It was an open space away from trees and had ample space for seating. This was also the place where the barrel was placed for trash burning. Trash that couldn't be burned was hauled by lawnmower trailer back to the family dump in the woods. I don't think the government provided adequate or convenient dumping stations at that time--and certainly no trash pickup service.

There were almost always pet dogs around and outside cats sometimes. Labrador retrievers were the most common breed, though most dogs we had were mixed. Most would stay around the house pretty well, but we had trouble with some wondering off. I did enjoy many walks in the woods behind the house with our dogs.

Much of the woods around the house has been cleared for pasture in recent years, but at the time the house was surrounded by trees. Because of the woods and proximity to two state parks--Huston Woods in Ohio and Whitewater State Park on other side of Union County--we saw a lot of wildlife around the house. There were often deer, opossums, raccoons, foxes, squirrels and many opportunities for bird watching. We had bird feeders most of the time I lived there, and I learned to identify several different species because of that.

In late April and early May, family members would often go mushroom hunting in the woods of the family farm or get permission to go in the woods of nearby neighbors. Grandpa Waltz once found a large number of morels around the place we called the gravel pit because it had at one time been a source for gravel on the property.

Several years ago I made a 3D model of the house and property in Google Sketchup that I'm happy to share with anyone interested.

- Kelly Leonard 14:41, 24 September 2021 (UTC)

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Categories: Union County, Indiana