This picture of the smallest post office in the world, and one of the oldest in the U.S., isn’t really in my backyard, it’s a few miles up the road here in Cashiers, NC, but still in the realm of my neighborhood. The photo really shows and tells the story, so there’s not a lot I can add. It was closed in 1953 by President Eisenhower. There is a picture of our little post office hanging in the Smithsonian Institute.
Most of us live near something that we show visitors, but we overlook many unburied treasures every day without any wonder, passing them on our walks or commutes, barely noticing. It’s so familiar, so ordinary, we forget to wonder.
There was a big boulder on a corner two blocks from my house in Three Rivers when I was a child. It said MOAB. I was fascinated, but no one talked about it or seemed interested in knowing how it got there or why. No one wondered. I created many stories about MOAB written in my mind. I told a little cousin Moab was buried under the rock but he was still alive and tried to grab bike tires. One shouldn’t pedal too close. I even convinced myself and pedaled fast.
I emptied my childhood home two years ago and discovered a booklet published for the town’s centennial in 1931. I surprised myself that I still wondered and looked immediately for MOAB in the table of contents. I discovered the boulder was a monument placed there as a centennial project in 1931. Our town, situated on the convergence of three important rivers, began as two settlements; one was called Moab. That corner was the center of that settlement. The settlement would have reached to my yard. Mom and my brother and I were forever digging up broken dishes and rusty “things” when planting tulip bulbs. I always wondered how they got there, in our yard.
What if I’d learned about this as a wondering kid? My imagination probably would have imploded. A settlement? Covered wagons, settlers, bonnets, guns, Indians…in my yard! Were there wolves? What kind of houses did they live in when the snow came?
Don’t let your backyard history go to waste. Don’t wait for a visitor to enjoy your places, do it every day. Plant that history in the fertile soil of wonderment. The kids might act like they’re bored. So what? Let them know you aren’t. Let them see you care. Let them experience the fun in history, the joy in discovery. That seed might be the one that grows into a wondering historian, or a fiction writer, in your own backyard.