Edgar’s Mother’s Chimney

The Flats Road lined in parts with regal old sugar maples, meanders east, turning almost immediately to dirt after diverging from its sibling, the Centerville Road. In fall, the road is a joy to travel, rivaling the town’s few paved roads for comfort, whereas in the spring, surface melt and rising ground water combine to brew a rich morass of mud into which vehicles routinely settle only to be hauled out with a neighbor’s tractor or occasionally with Egnor’s grunting dozer. Various dirt tracks head off into the woods, leading to abandoned farms, renegade trails to the top of Sanders Mountain, teenage trysting spots, sugaring operations, or active logging sites.

Few houses line the road, but of those that do, the Levarne Farm is the grande dame. Many of the large wood-frame houses in and around the town were built by Si Jewett and his boys in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Si offered few design options, so most of the homes are the same, varying only in scale and color. The main entrance is in the center and either four or eight symmetrical windows flank it depending on the buyer’s financial standing and family size.

Charlie, the Levarne patriarch, was a respected mason in town. He could raise a fireplace and chimney in a matter of weeks, and, unlike other masons, would be on site daily as long as every sixth or seventh load of bricks hauled up to his current elevation by his assistant Whitey contained a frosty Old Fitzgerald from the mortar-spattered blue cooler.

Like a woman of a certain age, the Levarne homestead was settling a bit into its foundation. The sills, flexible now with dry rot, allowed the house to conform to the seasonal movements of the landscape on which it sat rather than the builder’s level that had fixed their position more than a century earlier. This gravitational compliance and seasonal frost heaving caused the roof line on occasion to trace the rolling horizon in the distance with uncanny precision.

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