The Basement Child of Willoughby

The Basement Child of Willoughby

By: Stephanie L. Robertson

mixed media house

Listen here—don’t you feel sorry for me. What happened was a long time ago, and I don’t appreciate pity. I git purty tired of them long looks Willoughby folks give me. It happened over twenty-five years ago, and let’s leave it at that.

I suspect you ain’t heard the story—being new to Willoughby and all that. I reckon I’ll tell ya, since ya’ll seem so nice.

Just don’t blame me, alright? As long as ya don’t blame me, I’ll tell ya what happened.

Well, like I say, it happened over twenty-five years ago—naw, I need to go back further than that. Hmmm. Maybe thirty years ago…

I was hurting somethin’ fierce.

“Stop pushin, Mayline,” said Doc Quimby, wiping sweat from his forehead. “This baby is breached.”

It finally got born.

“Oh!” gasped the nurse, her eyes round as gourds.

Doc Quimby’s wordlessly laid it across my chest.

I took it home, grieving it and my husband who just died in the war. I let nobody see it, and before long, time came for it to go to school. I couldn’t let that truant woman have a look at it. She came along, knocking at my door.

“My sister in Mobile has it,” I lied.

“Your child needs to come back home and get in school,” said that truant woman.

I said alright.

I had to think of somethin’.

Y’all want to know my secret?

Y’all will be the only one who knows, other than my sister. She kept it the during the whole “kidnapping” ruckus in Willoughby, twenty-five years ago. When I took it down to Mobile—that was the first time since its birth that it seen daylight.

Our no-good sheriff came and investigated. I knew I didn’t have much to worry about with him on the case. Pretty soon, the whole thing blew over and went to cold case.

I brought it back from Mobile, and it’s lived here ever since.

Now, if y’all will ‘scuse me, I gotta go take a plate of dinner down to the basement. Like I’ve done for thirty years.

mixed media house

Basement Child art by Stephanie.

Mixed media materials:
acrylic paint, upcycled fence piece, fabric, magazine clippings, Modge Podge, and Titebond 2 Premium Wood Glue.

The Man who Died Twice

The story about the Man who Died Twice begins with my trolley ride and ends with a What would You have done?

Into the Montford Historical District

Like I said in a previous post, I visited Asheville, North Caroline and had the nicest trolley ride around town. I boarded the Gray Line Trolley Tour of Asheville at the lovely Asheville Visitor’s Center.

The tour is a fully-narrated historic tour with ten famous sites where you can hop on or hop off. If you stay on for the whole ride, it’s 90 minutes.

Annie, our guide, was a history major who is looking for a job as a teacher…Please hire this woman! She is a wealth of knowledge! Not only that, she’s a good driver and kept us entertained with little-known facts about Asheville. For instance…

The Wright House and Carriage Inn

The Wright House and Carriage Inn.

When You Marry Mr. Wrong

As Annie drove us through Asheville’s Montford Historical District, she told us about the man who died twice. Mister Osella Brent Wright (ahem, Mister Wrong) married one Leva D.  Both hailed from Rock Island, Illinois. In 1899, they built themselves a home with porches and parlors, gables and slate roofs, Doric columns and spindles…All in the Queen Anne/Colonial-Revival architectural tradition, according to the National Park Service.

The Wrights owned the Carolina Carriage House, a leather goods business in Asheville.

You’d think their life together was idyllic, living in such a beautiful house in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains.

Not so much.

Apparently, Mr. Wright ran off in the night. Mrs. Wright was so humiliated that she told peeps that Osella B died. She even staged a funeral for the man.

A 1930 census indicates that Awesome Osella was living in Apopka, Florida.    The census says he was married, but he didn’t name his wife. (What a guy!)  Source: Find a Grave.

One stormy night, a knock rattled Leva’s door.  It was Awkward Osella, dripping wet, hat in hand.  He begged Leva to take him back. Leva offered him a modicum of grace. She allowed him to stay if he never ventured out again. After all, what’s a girl to do when she’s already faked his funeral?  What would she tell his mother??

Osella agreed.  Like Boo Radley, Osella’s face never saw the light of Asheville (or anywhere else) again.  I would have gone stark, raving mad with cabin fever, how about you?

At his real death, Leva buried Osella underneath his first tombstone.  Or somewhere…I can’t remember what Annie said.

So, the man died twice.  Kinda.

Mrs. Wright died in 1945, according to NPS. Since the couple had no children, the house was bought and sold several times.  It slowly eroded until people started calling it the “Faded Glory.”

The Wright House and Carriage Inn

The Wright House and Carriage Inn signBut the story ends happily.  (Not for Osella and Leda, but for us who love southern architecture.)

In the 1980’s, some enterprising man or woman remodeled the Wright House to use as a bed and breakfast.  No longer a faded glory, it is now known as the The Wright House and Carriage Inn on 235 Pearson Drive.

What would You have done?

Because of my beliefs about marriage, I would have taken Osella back unless he had run off with someone else. We’re supposed to stay married for better or for worse, right?

So what about you? What would you have done if you had been lovely Leda?

Annie with rescue kitten

Annie works with rescue kitten, Wilbur. Visit my Instagram for video.

P.S:  Thanks, Annie and the Gray Line Trolley for the trip and the fabulous stories.  I know I embellished the story a little bit. Annie didn’t say that it was stormy when Osella returned home, I don’t know if he knocked on the door–all just speculation on my part–and I can’t remember where she said they buried Osella the second time.

P.P.S: Please let me know if you like this kind of story. I’ve got tons more, so stay tuned!

Note: I received a ticket in return for blogging on Gray Line Trolley, but (regardless) I had a great ride with a fantastic guide!

trolley selfie

Gray Line Trolley selfie.