I was about fourteen before I found out that my Aunt Alice’s name was Alice. Until then I thought her name was That Old Bitch because that’s the only thing my dad ever called her.
Alice really was a horrid old crone. She had a resting bitch face decades before RBF ever became a pop culture acronym. Let’s be kind and just say there was no risk of her developing smile lines as she aged. My Uncle Leon was a great guy with a terrific sense of humor, but she did everything she could to squeeze all the joy out of his life.
So it may come as no surprise that Leon came without Alice to my dad’s funeral. And that’s where he told me the following story that I’ve now taken far too long to set up.
Leon and Alice lived on large piece of property. They raised my cousins in an old house that had been on the property for many, many years. After my cousins grew up and left home, Leon and Alice built a new house next door to the old one. When construction was complete and they finally moved in, Aunt Alice issued an edict that the walls of Uncle Leon’s new home office were to remain unscarred by nails. This, of course, made it difficult for him to display any art or family photos.
They moved into the house near the end of the year. Uncle Leon went out and bought one of those long twelve month calendars printed on felt. He took it into his new office and dutifully attached it to the wall with a piece of clear adhesive tape. When he returned to the office the next morning, he found that the calendar had fallen off the wall and was sitting in a pile on the floor. He picked it up and reattached it to the wall — this time with two pieces of tape. When he returned to the office the following morning he discovered it had once again fallen off and was again lying on the floor.
This frustrating process repeated itself every day for a week. Each day he used an additional piece of tape to reattach it to the wall. By the end of the week there was more tape than calendar.
Nevertheless when he entered his office the following morning he again found the calendar in a heap on the floor.
Leon snapped. After forty years of being henpecked by The Old Bitch, he just plain lost it. He threw off his chains of marital oppression in one glorious act of rebellion.
He stormed out to his workshop, found a rusty old railroad spike, took it back to his office, and hammered it through the cloth calendar and into the pristine, untouched wall.
”She told me I couldn’t use nails,” Leon told me proudly, ”but she never said anything about spikes.”
And that brings us to these photos of the Barossa Valley’s oldest house.
It’s made of trees. Thick, unevenly cut tree trunks. Not even logs. Tree trunks.
Maybe it’s just me, but I picture some early Barossa Valley version of my Aunt Alice haranguing her long-henpecked husband.
“When’s the cabin going to be done? The builder’s six months behind schedule. I told my family they could come over for Christmas.”
The poor guy snapped like my Uncle Leon and this house was the result.