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Richard Youse's House

Richard Youse was an old man living in an old dilapidated farmhouse with his 15 cats. I met him in the winter of 2000, while driving through rural southeast Allen County, Indiana in search of an abandoned schoolhouse that I had photographed once before. I was driving east on Barkley Road, the gravel road where the schoolhouse is located. As I passed Emenhiser Road, I saw the roof of an old house sticking up above the trees in the distance to the south. Thinking there was an abandoned house, I turned down Emenhiser and drove to the house.

There was, indeed, what appeared to be an old abandoned farmhouse. The wood was badly weather-beaten and the yard was overgrown. The driveway was a muddy track. No one had lived here for a long time, or so it seemed.

I got out of my car carrying a camera bag and tripod. I usually walk around a place the first time I visit to get an idea of what's there to photograph and to let me form an idea of how I want to portray it. As I walked behind the house, I found an old man sitting on a plastic patio chair with a cat on his lap! An old car was parked in the mud behind the house; and there were many, many more cats wandering about.

The old man asked me what I was doing and what I wanted. I told him that I was an artist and that I liked to photograph old houses. I told him I was sorry to have intruded, that I didn't realize anyone lived here. He introduced himself as Richard Youse, an 87 year old retired farmer.

His parents had bought the house in 1924, and he had lived there ever since. Mr. Youse never married or had children, so he lived with his parents until they died. He believed the house to have been built in the 1870's, because he said it was very old when his parents bought it, and because of the building's primitive construction that included use of wattle and daub insulation inside the walls.

I'm not sure why the house was in such bad condition. I visited Mr. Youse over the next couple years and he seemed to be well off financially, even buying himself a new truck a year or so after I met him. Perhaps he and his parents were poor long ago and the building had deteriorated too much to save by the time he was older. When I met him, the house was missing much of its siding, and one of the rooms in the back of the house was about to fall down. Mr. Youse had done a little to try to stop the deterioration, such as nailing styrofoam insulation over the front of the house, but this appears to have been done not long before I met him and long after the house was too far gone to really save.

Richard Youse was an interesting man who seemed very alone, except for his 15 cats. He was very talkative when we first met but over the next couple years he seemed to get forgetful and suspicious of visitors. I knew he had family, because once a nephew visited him when I was there, so I stopped going to see him because he got to where he didn't seem to want me to come around.

A couple years later, I decided to go back and see if he was still around. The house was gone! The surrounding fields had been extended over the former yard and house site, leaving only the old windmill tower and the driveway ruts to suggest that someone had once made his home here. His nearest neighbor was quite a distance away, but I drove there to ask if they knew what happened to Mr. Youse. The neighbor said he had declined in health so his family put him in a nursing home and bulldozed the house. That was around 2004.

In May, 2008 I received an email from a man who grew up down the road from Richard Youse. He told me that Mr. Youse had passed away a couple years earlier. Another person emailed me the info from Mr. Youse's obituary in the Fort Wayne newspapers. He left us in January, 2005.




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