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August 2006
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Whose window is that?

Sometime in last century, deep within the golden age of love, peace, and flower power, I knew a woman named Bonnie. At the time she was in her early thirties. However she was of Chinese descent and could pass for a teenager, and pass she did, bopping around and about with the best of them.

Bonnie and several of her like minded souls dwelt in a large mansion in Newton, MA. It had been the residence of a respectable doctor who used some of its many rooms as his office; now it was the site of a commune. It was a nice old place, full of curious nooks and crannies, wandering halls, and little closets tucked beneath stairs. It was a wonderful place to live if you but had a staff of servants to clean the place.

One day the residents were out on the lawn enjoying a pleasant summer day. Bonnie looked up at the house, pointed at a window on the second floor and said, "That's my bedroom window." Everybody ran around pointing at windows, saying, "That's my window." There was a bit of muddle at first but eventually they got it all sorted out, and everybody was paired off with their own window. There was only one catch....

[Insert Twilight Zone music here]

...There was a window left over. It wasn't in a bathroom or anything like that. In fact it was between the windows of two bedrooms that, as far as anybody knew, were right next to each other.

The residents of the commune began a search. Eventually they discovered that one of those closets tucked underneath a stairs had a little door that opened up into a small shaft that went up to the attic. At one end of the attic was a small room, perhaps four feet by four, with a chair and a window.

Eventually they decided that the house must have been in the underground railway, one of the safe houses for runaway slaves as they made their way to Canada. That chair may have been the very one that black men sat upon as they watched out for the window for the possible arrival of bounty hunters eager to snatch a runaway slave from freedom and send him back to slavery.

It only occurs to me now that there must have been a priests hole as well, a place that a runaway slave could hide if a bounty hunter actually showed up. The little room was hidden but it wasn't safe. The resident might well have been seen through the window. If there was one, though, the communards never found it.

I suppose that is as it should be. A house like that has its secrets, and it is only right that some of them should remain ... secret.


This page was last updated August 1, 2006.

Richard Harter's World
Site map
Personal
Essays
August 2006
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Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck Capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2006!