The Abandoned Bergman Homestead, Second Visit: Seven years later, I go back to the Bergman homestead to see what’s left.
It looks exactly like I remember. Everything is just as I left it, from the lone tree growing silently in the silo to the cold bronze pond in the basement of the collapsed barn. There’s a memory tagged to every building I see. I touch trees as I walk past them, greeting them like a soldier at her first family reunion back home.
I’m knee-deep in cockleburs when a pickup stops on the other side of the road. An old guy gets out. I wave, attempting to convey my good intentions as a trespasser. He stares at me skeptically. Eager to convince him I’m harmless, I stride across the road to say hello.
He nods when I reach him, returns my greeting.
“You from around here?” (The perennial first question in small town Minnesota.)
“Roseville, actually. I explored this place when I was younger. Had to come back and see it again.” I gesture expansively, smile charmingly. “Good memories. The best memories.”
He looks at me blankly. “I thought you were one of the Bergman kids.”
“No, I just…love this place.” There’s an awkward pause. Someone who lives closer to the cities would smile and spout some appreciative nonsense to fill the gap, but he doesn’t bother. He’s all texture, this old man. The back of his neck is cracked like oak bark, the hairs wiry. Half the moles on his face are black melanomas. You don’t see people who look this used-up in the city. People who look like they’re crumbling back into the ground they’ve farmed.
“I thought you were one of the Bergman kids,” he says again.
“Have you lived here long?” I ask.
“Seventy-five years.” He glances over at the homestead. “That house has been here longer than I have.”
That’s all he says, but he keeps staring at the house like he sees things I don’t. The conversation dwindles out.
I want to ask him more about the Bergmans but I don’t think he would – or could – tell me anything meaningful if I did. His memories are sixty-eight years older than mine, nets of experience as deep and invisible as oak roots. I was here once, seven years ago. I can’t think of anything else to say. I shrug and smile. “I’d better get back to my exploring.”
“Cars have no mercy,” he shouts warningly as I scuttle back across the road in front of a little Toyota. Then he goes back to his own business. I finish up my ventures at the homestead, feeling lonely for some obscure reason. This place doesn’t belong to me anymore.
Here’s more on local exploration:
Grow: Talking Change with Gabe Sehr, Organic Farmer
Exploration: An Abandoned Farmstead with a Fantastic Dairy Barn
Exploration: Abandoned Houses in Small Towns
Exploration: Stuff I’ve Done/Seen in the Twin Cities Recently
Exploration: Checking Out a Modern Abandoned Building