Finding Pearl Buck

Many times on these baseball trips, we stumble across sites that we had no idea existed and are intrigued and entertained (or at least mildly amused) by them, for instance, when we found the Marble King factory, or the Borax Museum, or the Weightlifting Hall of Fame (all stories for another time). Then other places that we set out to see give us grave difficulties in finding them, such as the Pearl Buck home outside of Dublin, Pennsylvania.

Being that Ginny teaches in an English department and is a great lover of fiction, Dan says she drags him to every author’s house that we come within 50 miles of. Secretly, Dan also often finds these museums interesting, but wouldn’t admit that over a hot bed of coals. Yet, on our eastern Pennsylvania and western Tennessee baseball trip, Ginny had planned for us to visit Buck’s home.

According to the AAA Guide, the house is located in Perkasie, PA, a small town about 20 miles north of Philadelphia. We were coming from Doylestown (home of the Mercer Museum, another story for a later time), also a small town north of Phillie. The key is that you can’t get from one of these towns to the other without great difficulty and a great deal of swearing. But we managed to make the twisty trip to Perkasie, only to be stymied by where Buck’s house was in the town. The directions in the Guide simply stated one mile south of SR 313 at Dublin Road, but there was no SR 313 on our map and after driving here and beyond, no signs of it in Perkasie. So, Ginny in her wisdom, stopped in a mall parking lot to further peruse the map and the Guide for any clues. Instead, though, she spied a police vehicle parked in the same lot. She confidently got out of the car, walked up to the police officer (who was talking to another citizen of this fair town—a man driving a pickup truck) and asked boldly, “Excuse me, sir” (always be polite to our civil servants—you never know what kind of trouble you’ll be in on any trip). “Could you tell me where the Pearl Buck house is?”

After a short exchange with the truck driver, in which they hemmed and hawed, then settled on a definite answer, the police officer took out a piece of paper and drew a map explaining what each line meant and what turns to take. Then he handed it to Ginny stating emphatically, “If this doesn’t work, you never saw me.” She laughed taking the makeshift map and hurried back to the car. Finally, some directions we could really follow! Or not.

Turns out—or not. (Notice I haven’t mentioned the officer’s name.) We drove and drove and drove, until we knew we couldn’t possibly be on the right track. So, we turned around, made our way back toward Perkasie. On the outskirts of town, we spied an ice cream parlor set up in an old Victorian house at an intersection. It stood out clearly because it was the only structure in acres of farm land. It looked as though the original farmhouse had been converted into some sort of oasis of cool refreshing enjoyment in a sea of leafy green. Ginny pulled into the parking lot. Dan said, “Is this really the time for ice cream?” Ginny only scowled at him and jumped out of the car.

Inside the shop, which was empty save for the woman behind the counter, dressed in a red and white pinstriped apron, Ginny asked where the Pearl Buck house was. The woman stared at her like Ginny had spoken in Swahili. “We had directions from a police officer, but it seems he wasn’t quite right. We missed a turn off or something,” Ginny explained. The woman shook her head, but added, “I think you take this road out front down to the light and turn right, then you should find 313.” Ginny thanked her and fled back to the car. We were back in business. If we could find 313, surely we could find the house.

Think again. After we had followed the ice cream woman’s directions, we found ourselves in a residential area of mostly ranch homes with good-size yards, probably built in the 1950s-60s. It was a very pleasant area with manicured lawns and well-kept homes. But no sign of the Pearl Buck house. As she was driving through the neighborhood, admiring the homes, Ginny spotted a yard sale with several cars parked out in front. She made an executive decision and pulled in behind the last car. Dan snarled, “Now what? See something you can’t live without?” Ginny snapped back, “Since you won’t ask for directions, I’m improvising.” Obviously, spending too much time in a car being lost takes its toll on good humor.

When Ginny reached what looked like the homeowner and sponsor of the sale, she said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but do you know where the Pearl Buck house is?” The woman frowned a bit and called to one of the women browsing through the yard sale treasures, “Phoebe, you know where the Pearl Buck house is, don’t you?” Before Phoebe could answer, two women standing to one side getting money from their wallets in readiness to pay for their purchases, both spoke up, “Yes, we do.” Ginny began to ask where, hesitating about receiving more faulty directions, when one of the women said, “If you could wait a moment while we pay for these, you can follow us over there. I drive right past the place to go home.” Ginny almost kissed the woman’s hand! She said thank you so many times, the woman must’ve thought she was crazy. She finally said, “We’re in the white convertible over there. Thank you!”

The woman was true to her word and in about five minutes, we were at the driveway to Pearl Buck’s house. Ginny honked the horn in another “thank you” gesture and the women waved as they continued on home. We drove up the long winding driveway to the out building of the home. Here was housed the business area, with a museum store, a video room, conference areas and ticket sales. We were so relieved when we finally got into the building that we were almost giddy. Until they told us that the last tour was at 2 p.m., and it was now 4 p.m. We could not believe our luck. After searching all afternoon for this place and to be told we couldn’t get in was almost too much. We looked at one another and started laughing. The sales people and docents looked at us perplexed. So we had to explain. They apologized profusely—although none of it was their fault—and pointed out that they were open the next day. Unfortunately, we had tickets to a baseball game the next day and couldn’t return. But we could possibly rearrange our schedule some to return in three days.

Before we left, we asked for directions to Dublin where our motel was located. They told us to turn left out of the driveway and we’d run into State Route 313. Oh no, 313 again, the bane of our existence. But we followed their instructions, turned left out of the driveway, went one-quarter mile and found SR 313. Our motel was about two miles away. We had actually passed this turn off for the Buck house when we had left that morning. If we had returned to our motel the way we had come that morning, we would have been a quarter mile for the Buck house.

The moral of this story is to use Google maps before you go. And always stop at neighborhood yard sales—those people know what they’re doing.


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