The process of giving your place of residence a name is often such a time-consuming chore that many domiciles remain nameless for years. The process usually consists of standing on your property, viewing the house, the field, or the hillside from different vantage points, trying to arrive at the perfect word or phrase that best describes the feeling you get while standing there.
We try to recall the names of places in novels or movies that might be appropriate. If I lived in a big plantation home with stately columns, verandas filled with white wicker, views of far-reaching cotton fields, and fragrant gardens where women in hoop skirts stroll through gardens spotted with boxwood topiaries in the shape of Southern generals, I would surely name the place “Tara”. I don’t live in such a home so the task is a bit more difficult for me.
The type of tree that dominates the acreage can come into play when naming the residence. If you have oaks, you might settle on “Twelve Oaks” which, after all the wind storms lately, will be renamed “Eleven Oaks” and inevitably “Three and a Half Oaks.” Pines can bring about names such as “Pine Bluff” or “Pine Ridge” or “Pine-scented Tara.” If poplar trees shade the property, you can choose “Poplar Hill” or “Poplar View” or “Mighty Poplar Now That We Own A Big Old Mansion.”
As people around here know, most homes over 50 years old are known by the last name of the long standing owner and preceded by the adjective “Old” and followed by the noun “Place.” Just ask for directions to anything below the Mason-Dixon Line and you’ll see what I mean.
“How do you get to the boat landing?” a passerby might ask an old-timer sitting outside a country store.
“Well,” he’ll answer, rearranging the chaw of tobacco in his cheek. “Watcha wanna do is go about one mile down the road till you see the Old Patterson Place on your right—big ol’ white house with black shutters—you’ll take a left, go about a football field’s length till you see the Old Stalling Place on your left—sort o’ run down yellow house on the corner—and you’ll want to take a right. Go ‘bout a mile down the road and when you see the Old Samuels Place on your left—ain’t there anymore, burned down a while back, but you can imagine it—you’ll take a right, then two lefts and the boat landing is straight ahead. Got that?”
“Um, I think so,” the passerby says with uncertainty. “Are there any landmarks that will help me find it besides these old houses you’ve mentioned?”
“Well yeah,” the old-timer responds. “If you end up in the river, you know you’ve gone too far.”
Some places in the area must have been much easier to name—especially the ones with a view. Take for instance Cliff View, Belle View, or River View—all three River Views.
Unfortunately for some of us naming our property based on the view from the kitchen window might not work as well. For instance, some would be living in places appropriately named The Side of My Neighbor’s House View, Pavement View, Sewage Treatment Plant View, or Dumpster View. If you settle on such a name, I wouldn’t sit around waiting for a call from the local garden club asking you if they could add your home to the spring garden tour circuit.
It seems as though the age of the house and the amount of land it sits on is a prerequisite to naming a home. The way I see it, if the most financially taxing action you perform each month is writing that check to the mortgage company, you have every right in the world to paint a name on a sign near the front yard or at the mailbox. Whether you live in a double-wide trailer, a condominium, a lean-to, or a Tara-like cottage with a stoop, let me remind you that when in the South, do as the Southerners do, and name your place of residence.
Some people might dream of having a civic center or a boulevard named after them. Personally, I won’t feel like a true pillar of the community until the day arrives when the driver of a fancy car with out-of-state license plate pulls into a Scottsville, Virginia gas station, asks for directions, and, after gesturing to the right and then the left, the attendant, without hesitation, says: “. . . and then you’ll pass The Old Mason Place . . .” Then, and only then, will I know I have arrived! It’s a Southern thing.