The House by the Side of the Road

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by Betty Binner Nash

The House by the Side of the RoadIt was built of rocks carried with care from Gold Mine Mountain, one at a time by Jesse and Althea Taylor. The Taylors were husband and wife and Army veterans who came to the Arizona desert hoping to regain health lost during World War 1 in France. She was a nurse, and he was a non-commissioned officer. They met in a hospital and married.

Not tall people, they worked hard and long to build their house by the side of the main road between Florence and Phoenix. The road had been built by prison labor when Governor Hunt was in office, and thus bore his name.

To supplement their meager income from war pensions, the Taylors raised beautiful long-stemmed sweet peas in covered cloth houses during the winter. The cloth protected the plants from wind and too much sun. It also helped keep moisture on the garden instead of drying rapidly. The Taylors had a water well, but it cost money to run the diesel motor that mechanically-inclined Jesse kept in working order. Money in the 1930s was a scarce commodity.

The Taylors picked their flowers early in the morning and drove their laden car into Chandler where they sold the sweet smelling flowers to tourists at the San Marcos Hotel. Most of the visitors were from snowy states and were delighted to have such beautiful flowers in mid-winter.

The house by the side of the road was small, but the fireplace of special rocks was large. It covered one end of the main room. There were hidden cubby holes in it for safe keeping of papers. The concrete that held the rocks in place was wider than one might have thought necessary, but made an interesting design in the wall. To realize two small people, neither much over 5’ 2”, could do so very much hard work was amazing. They had very little help lifting, pushing, pulling and doing what was needed to build their house. One might say, determination built the house by the side of the road.

The House by the Side of the Road and treesThe Taylors were there for at least 30 years before they sold due to failing health. The couple who bought the house had big ideas for it, but things went badly for the brother and sister and after about 10 years, the brother committed suicide. Left alone, the sister remained at the house for several years before moving to town.  A woman alone in the house by the side of the road was not really safe, and friends worried about her.

The little rock house, built with such loving care, stood by the side of the road until Feb. 7, 2003. It had stood for at least 70 years before it was bulldozed to ground level in one day. The citrus grove, a small one, is also gone. There is no evidence of the cloth green houses in which so many thousands of sweet peas bloomed. Everything changes. Permanence and life are vapors blown on the wind.