By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
In 2003, when Linda McEachern found out she was going to be a first-time grandmother, she decided she wanted her future grandchildren to know a little of what it was like to live in the country.
“I wanted them to experience the outdoors,” said McEachern, who grew up in Winona. “I wanted to keep them outside.”
So she built a hen house for her chickens in the backyard of her home off Chesterville Road in Lee County.
The next year, she built a barn for her old horse, Bones, out of some salvaged wood. In 2005, she made a place for her goats to play.
“I took old salvaged wooden pallets and put legs on them and made different levels so the goats could jump and romp,” she said. “But they butted all my trees, so I got rid of the goats and turned the area into a stage for the grandchildren.”
This is when her best friend and next-door neighbor, Susan Hansberger, chimed in.
“Susan always had a way with words,” said McEachern, 63. “You never knew what was going to come out of her mouth. One day she said I’d built a Boogle House. I was kind of offended at first. For someone who didn’t know anything about building, I thought I did pretty good. It didn’t so much offend me as it hurt my feelings. Finally, she said, ‘Have you never read “Why I Built the Boogle House”?’ and I said I hadn’t.”
So Hansberger went online and found McEachern a copy of the children’s book published in 1964.
Written by Helen Marion Palmer, the first Mrs. Dr. Seuss, “Why I Built the Boogle House” follows the struggles of a young boy in search of the perfect pet and the perfect house in which to house it.
He trades up from a turtle to increasingly larger pets (duck, kitten, rabbit, dog, goat, horse), building and modifying homes for them, until finally he has no more animals, but instead, a house built for a Boogle. (We’re not told what a Boogle is, but he has outfitted his Boogle House into a rather nice clubhouse with plants, a lantern, a folding chair and curtains.)
“Everything I built just took on the name of Boogle – all because of Susan,” McEachern said. “So we call it Boogle Town.”
Boogle Town includes a Boogle House, which is a tree house built out of scrap lumber; Fort Boogle, which is outfitted with lanterns, oversized rusted keys and an old military ammo box; Boogle Park, with benches made out of old cedar trees that encircle a fire pit; and Boogle Town Depot, complete with two train cars that can be pulled around the yard behind a four-wheeler.
“I’d always wanted a tree house when I was little, so I promised the grandchildren I’d build them one,” McEachern said. “It was logical that we’d add on with the fort. I’m gradually adding old stuff – farm implements, antique gates – because I want it to be fun for them, but I also want it to be educational.”
McEachern, who was a counselor at Itawamba Community College for 15 years before retiring in 2002, said at least three days a week in the summer, her four grandchildren – Tee, Mac, Hattie and Cam – come to visit Boogle Town.
“They love to come out here and play in the morning time, when it’s cool,” she said. “But about 1 o’clock, we have to go and get in a neighbor’s pool.”
McEachern has dedicated Boogle Town to Hansberger, who died in March at the age of 47.
At the entrance to the fictional town, there is a sign that reads: “Dedicated to the memory of Susan Hansberger. My friend, neighbor and Boogle House Building Buddy. 2012.”
In the front of the copy of the “Boogle House” book Hansberger gave McEachern, Susan wrote: “To Linda – My ‘Boogle House’ Building Buddy! Love Always, Susan. 2006.”
“I wanted Boogle Town to look rustic and weathered, not like something engineered by professional contractors,” McEachern said. “I wanted it to look like Susan. Whimsical. She was a free spirit.”