To the south of this old farm is some of the most productive farmland on earth. As one heads north and crosses the Wattensaw Bayou, the land ceases to be table-top flat and less productive for row-crops. Following World War One, folks here realized the need for a productive use for the land and dairy farming became a major source of livelihood. A few of the small buildings that once housed family dairies still remain and one is still active, operated by a German immigrant and his family.
Beneath the pastures rests a solid layer of clay. It is good for building ponds, not so good as a foundation for structures. The shrink-swell characteristics have left many a homeowner scratching his or her head over a cracked foundation. Whatever is built on clay should be constructed at one time as later additions will likely move at different speeds and in different directions. I guess life is a little like that.
What the soil is really good at is making bricks, and evidence suggests that this has occurred over the years. Over the years, we have found bricks of varying types and quality, some perhaps made by slaves. One has the date of its birth, “1892” scratched into its surface. Some bear the initials of a long-forgotten maker. Others simply lie crumbling beneath the grass, uncovered occasionally during some new project.
Old and fragile, the homemade bricks can’t be used for any structural purposes. But, like the faces in the photos of the folks who made them, it is interesting to look at them and wonder what was going back then.
We don’t make our own bricks anymore. Our foundations arrive pre-formed by the mass market. Durable, uniform, and available in an endless variety, it is much more convenient to allow others to provide the things we rest upon. This is good in some ways but the makers of store-bought bricks don’t, I have noticed, scratch their initials on the surface.