Friday, November 22, 2013
The day I came to the old house by the lake, was a beautiful day. Brilliant sunshine and I had my sunglasses on to keep my eyes safe from cataracts. The grass that morning was wet from the ground sweating already in the early sun, so I wore rubber boots that were going to make my feet sweat just as bad as the ground, but I wouldn't have to worry about tripping over snakes in sandals.
I parked the car, met the head landscaper in the cleared out space a short distance from the house. He was standing in the shady front yard. We toured the entire yard and all the way around the lake. I told him my plans asked for an estimate of the drive, parking area - both done in gravel, and the trail all the way around the lake done in quiet bark and the little wooden bridge over the creek - no arches in it, just nice and flat and safe - high rails to lean on.
I called an electrician the day before and he was to meet me there in an hour. I wanted to discuss wiring for the house, the lamps around the lake at equal distances and maybe a few more things if I found any new ideas springing to life.
When the landscaper and I passed the creek, there was a small house sitting away from the path I wanted to have made. "What's that, I asked."
"It's a one room house - probably was for slaves once. Not sure, but probably. There are five more scattered around back in here. We didn't clear back there cuz you didn't tell us to, but a couple of the guys went back and found the five other houses and went inside. They all look like this one and they are all in need of repairs. Mostly roof, but there's nothing inside, just floor four walls, small porch, and what's left of roofs," he informed.
He had cut up to the first house because it was right at the border of the area I had told him to cut back to. I had seen the roofs on Google Earth but didn't think they belonged to me or were on my property. Now I wanted in the first house.
I walked up to the porch and carefully stepped up onto it. The wood creaked and I backed off. I wasn't the in real healthy shape yet and while I was working at losing weight via SparkPeople.com, I still needed to lose more. Learning how to eat healthy and live a healthier life was not coming easy to a junkfoodie such as myself.
"Oh, it's alright, Ma'am. It creaks but it's strong and tough. Not sure why, but that wood is going to hold well," my landscaper said. I wondered how much knowledge and experience he had in woodwork.
I tried the porch again and while it creaked, it did hold. I stepped into the house. It was stinking like rotting wood and I wondered how many termites were in it. He was right about the four walls floor and left-0ver roof. The floor was starting to rot where the rain came directly through the hole in the roof.
I didn't care that it was old, by the time I fixed it, it would basically have been torn down anyway. Besides that, I could lay down a thick layer of concrete first and then set the house on steel blocks anchored to the concrete. The termites would have to form a long-term plan for getting to the new timbers that were treated against them in the first place.
Boy did I have a lot of work ahead of me! But, undaunted, we walked on around the lake and I called a contractor not far from the property. He said he would come over immediately and see what I was talking about. When I hung up, I thought, might as well have him look at the big house, too. That will need some fixing before it's as rotten and termite eaten as these.
When we got back to the house, the landscaper and I made the deal and he left to start his work. The electrician was just parking beside my car and I started out by aiming him at the house. Before he was all the way in the house, the construction man showed up and we talked. He followed the electrician in.
I followed the construction man. I was amazed at the place. It was full of furniture. The place stunk from disuse and dust. The stairs to the floor above had some steps missing as they had somehow disappeared and the banister was as wobbly as a new-born deer. "I'd replace this whole thing, if it were mine, Ma'am."
"Okay, give me a quote on the entire project when we get through deciding what the project is. I don't like the stairs there anyway, so lets look at options. I want something very Southern and very rich looking and Tara is a good theme."
"Yes, Ma'am. Let me wander through, take notes, go back and put something together for you and then set up a time to present it to you."
"Okay. Sounds good." I watched him take out his measuring device. One of those new laser ones and he started measuring the rooms, at every angle. I wandered myself. The kitchen was back to before electricity existed. I started looking for outlets and light switches. There were none. Not a single one. No lamps hanging down over the dining room table that was massive and heavy. Not a lamp anywhere except lanterns. Quint, I thought. But how on earth did they survive the years of modern time with only lanterns and boiling water on the stove for baths and laundry and good grief! How did they wash clothes. Don't tell me they did it in the lake!
I called an antique dealer. They would take it all and have an estate sale. I would get a "commission" and they would get most of the money, but I didn't really care. I didn't want most of it anyway. The couch and a couple of end tables in the living room was all I wanted. The rest was going.
By the time the electrician was leaving after making enough notes to start his own encyclopedia and enough pictures to make a coffee table edition of "House Dilapidated," I was exhausted and the antique dealer arrived for a looksee.
I let one in and one out. She wandered the entire main floor. "I can take it all, but I want to see what's upstairs first," she said as she set her foot on the bottom step.
"No!" I said strongly. She looked at me surprised. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell but you scared me enough. I want to warn you about the steps. I haven't gone up because there are missing steps and the banister is rotten and wobbly. The house has been deserted for several years and so I don't even know what's up there.
The contractor was at the top of the steps. "I'll come down and help you two ladies up, if you wish. You can make it with my help, but I am warning against attempting by yourselves."
"Sounds alright to me," I said. The antique lady was agreeable so I led the way up to the first missing step and the construction man met me there and lent a hand to get me up to the next missing triple step. There I stood until he handed the antique lady up to the step just below me.
He passed me by putting his feet on the front risers of each of the missing steps then turned to help me up past them the same way. I felt the sharpness of those risers in my feet, no matter how I stepped on them. Since there were no more missing steps, I climbed the rest, hoping the normal step would ease the pain in my feet. It didn't, but I was at the top anyway.
I waited for the antique lady. We toured the house together with the contractor.
We went into the first bedroom and looked at the furniture, then in the armour which had clothes hanging in it. They were falling apart and rotting but there were clothes in the drawers, too. A nest of mice was in one pile of old men's shorts, silverfish were in the lady's negligee. I shut the drawers quickly. When I opened the drawer of the dresser that you sat at to do your hair, I anticipated a bunch of hair pins and brushes. There were those things, but there was a box that filled the bigger drawer on the left.
I pulled out the box and opened it. It was full of jewelry. Even having been forgotten and laying in the house, it was beautiful. Dirty, but beautiful. I took it with me.
When we made it down the stairs, after checking all the rooms and drawers, and not finding any more jewelry, I told the antique lady that I was having second thoughts but would entertain her expertise at a later date. She agreed and left. I turned to the construction man.
He explained that he had an idea of putting in a bathroom upstairs and downstairs near the kitchen. He thought it would be a good idea to gut the upstairs and build the stairs up to it in a much firmer fashion and add strength to the house in the process.
I was agreeable to his suggestions as vague as they were at that point. He left to go to work and I closed and locked the door.
It was starting to get dark and I rushed to my car to ensure I was off property before it was totally dark.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I traveled a road one day that was only traveled by me because I was lost! Looking for a specific place, I found myself in a residential area instead of the commercial area I was expecting to find myself.
I came to the end of a road and it forced me around a corner. I knew what directions I was traveling, but really had no idea of where I was. Even the street names on the stop sign were missing, as was the stop sign. I was alone and wondering where I could possibly be.
Being alone, both inside the car and out, I made the turn and stopped. Before me was an asphalt road that was laid under a canopy of tree limbs, all in full leafed glory. A beautiful shade lay ahead and I opened the window, felt the sweltering Florida sun scream in and slap me on my left side. It was so intense I thought I had an instant sunburn under my clothing as my skin stung regardless of covering or not.
I crept into the shade, checked the rearview mirror and stopped the car. The coolness of that spot and the absolute quietness invoked peace all around me. The slight cool breeze kissed my stinging skin and cooled it instantly. I felt like God had sat down next to me in the car.
I sat and listened. He said nothing, but I knew He was there. Some beautiful little wild canary trilled in the trees above me. I could not see them, but I knew they were there because I could hear them singing their hearts out. They were happy. I learned a long time ago that you don't sing happy tunes when you are not happy.
Judy Garland was having issues about something in her life and she was so sad she said to her songwriter, "I can sing today. I just don't feel like singing." He talked to her and found out she was extremely sad. "Put that into the song, Judy. Sing it once and we'll go home. I know you don't feel like singing, but do it for me, just once."
She agreed and after everything and everyone involved was ready, he led out and she sang the song. It was perfect! She waited for him to beg her to do it one more time even though he had promised that they would go home if she did it just once.
"Do you want to hear it played back?" he asked her.
"Yes." She listened and watched everyone in the orchestra and her songwriter, the guys in the booth that ran the microphones. They were nearly cheering but holding back out of respect for Judy. She looked at her songwriter. "Sounds perfect to me. I can't find anything wrong with it."
"It is perfect," he replied. They went home. "Over The Rainbow" was the song she sang and it was a hit. She was so sad when she sang that song but she put her despair into the song and gave it her all. It was a road she had never traveled.
I sat in the cool car in the middle of a lane that appeared to never be traveled. I became aware of my surroundings and the time. "Wonder where this place is?" I asked myself. I looked at the address and started the car, moved slowly down the road looking more for a road sign telling me what road I was on more than the location I was looking for.
There was an old concrete pipe in the ditch to allow for water to flow in the rains. It wasn't very wide and if I didn't take the driveway straight in, I'd have one wheel in the ditch. In Florida, the ditches are more dips scraped out so the lawnmower guy can just drive through it without any problems. They don't really have ditches in Florida unless it's a place where lots of water drains to, then it's deep. Most places don't even put a concrete pipe in the ditch because you'd have to build a drive over in order to use it. Yes, ditches are nearly as nonexistent as road edges. In Florida, you are either on the road or in the ditch. There is no side of the road. At least in my area.
So I made the turn and stopped just on the other side of the road. I was going to turn around but there on a tree trunk was the number of the place I was looking for. Complete with the name of the road. 118 Palmetto Road. I starred at the sign. White painted wood, black painted numbers, weathered, and nails holding it to the tree trunk were rusted and rusticles had formed below them.
"Looks like I found the place," I said as I got out. I looked for the way in. There must be a driveway here somewhere. The two rutts I was parked on stopped right next to the tree trunk with the sign. Beyond that was a thick hedge of trees, brush, palmetto, and oleander. "The Oleander is poisonous, the palmetto will tear my skin and clothes apart, and I don't have a clue as to what or where the snakes and spiders are. Not going in there through here," I said.
I wandered along the edge of the hedge until I couldn't go any farther without blazing some kind of trail through the jungle. "Not playing Lewis and Clark today. Not nearly ready for that." So I started back to the car. I was still looking into the jungle when I came upon a place that was thinner than the rest and angled off toward the right abit, which is why I missed it on my short hike the other way. Through the thinned out space, I saw a house at the other end. It was huge, it was dilapidated, but it had two floors, columns down the front and reminded me of Tara out of "Gone With The Wind".
"How far off track am I?" I wondered. I was not making the trek to Tara or any other place so I got back in my car but before I could back out, I saw something run across behind me. I looked out the driver's window and there stood a man.
I rolled the window down just enough for sound to pass through. "Lost, are you?"
"According to addresses, I am not lost at all. According to anything else that matters, I am totally lost." I checked my door lock. It was on.
"Okay. When you back out, just remember the deep ditches on either side of the drive. Too bad about this place. It's for sale, but I don't think anyone ever looks at it because of all the brush. Are you the realtor?"
"No. What happened to the people that lived here?"
"Oh, they died years ago. Some snot-nosed kid of theirs hung on to it forever without doing anything or having anyone check on it. Came down here a couple of months ago to check it out and was angry that it looked like this. I guess that was about a year ago, not only a couple of months ago. He finally had someone come put the For Sale sign on it, but I see that's gone now.
"Anyway, I'm a county inspector and I crawl around inside occasionally. Still a solid structure, just needs a lot of work on it. Roof needs replacing, floors need a lot of work. A person could buy this place cheap, hire a bunch of cheap labor and have the yard mowed down, then get in there and spend some money and make it a show place. I thought about buying it and making a restaurant out of it. Maybe a little camp ground, something to bring in the money. But I don't have the time for it so here it sits, rotting away. The people that used to live here were the sweetest people. Sorry to see them go. If you ever get int here and see them, don't be scared cus they were great people. Well, gotta go. Hope to see you around again."
He was gone when I looked up to say goodbye. I looked around. He was nowhere to be seen. I backed out slowly and drove down the road looking for where it went. It wasn't long before I came to a road I knew and followed it down to another main arterial and then home. When I got home, I looked it up on the internet. Google Earth could zero in on it real easy. There it was, the house, nearly buried under vines and on the other side of that old dilapidated house was a lake. My mind flashed a wide trail around it and a nice wooden bridge over the creek that it drained out of. Old fashioned lamp posts evenly spaced along the trail and at each end of the bridge.
I could see the house, clean and white and glittering in candle light. Tara. I thought. She rose again. New place, but there she was. I called a friend who was a realtor and she did the digging and got me the info. I made an offer really expecting it to be refused because it really was insultingly low. But it was accepted. I made the deal and got started on a landscaper. Cheap labor was out there mowing down vines, weeds, grass, even cutting a tree here and there that was rotted and ready to fall over. By the time they got done, two weeks later, the entire area, even around the lake was beautiful and that was only the mowing!
Pat Cote, Author - a free book in the making for my friends!
Let me know what you think about this book.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Have you ever traveled down a road you've never been on just to see where it goes? Have you ever been to Washington State? Have you ever been to Florida (Central to southern end)?
I grew up in Washington State. Lots of mountains and hills everywhere. If you've seen a commercial with a winter scene and an articulated (bend-in-the-middle) bus sliding sideways down the hill - you've seen what it looks like in Seattle when it snows as the scene is from Seattle about 1980.
Now try to transport yourself to Central or Southern Florida. It's about as flat as you can get and if you really want to go on a hill, you need to travel the Alligator trail almost to the east coast to climb a very high freeway exit/entrance. There you get on top of a concrete hill.
But to back up to the road you've never traveled. I have always been one to go down roads I've never gone down. Just to see where they went. Along the way, I've found some very interesting things, usually, and it sort of got stuck in my head and a girlfriend that used my "skill" of mapmaking in my head would use it quite often to get directions to someplace. Never mind the "right on 16th street" because I only had things like "right at the purple house with the huge blue rock in the front yard, then go about 1 mile and turn left at the Old Country Store with the funny Bar-B-Q painted like a giant pink pig and the bicycle stuck in the tree" type of directions. She never got lost either.
But roads never traveled are so interesting. They can often lead you home when the everyday, often traveled roads are clogged with tourists or shoppers or the everyday commute.
Now days you can use Google Earth (R) and other mapping apps to do your traveling for you as far as wondering where some road goes. We have one real close to us. It's been there for a very long time. I've been here for 10 years and still haven't gone down it in the car, but I know there is a large church and a campground and something that sounds like a convent or a monastery down this lonesome looking road. I've always thought the road was very short as it heads off to the river, which is less than a mile away from the main highway I travel. However, one day when I was Googling my area, I went "down that road" and found these interesting things and discovered the river has a huge jog in it there and therefore, the road goes a long way. It also turns a corner and meets up with another main road to home farther up and closer to my house. So now I have a real backway home when I need it.
My feeling is this, travel the back roads, the ones seldom used. Go in the daylight so you can see what's out there and not find yourself on some "Haunted Highway" in the middle of the night. I know there are a few haunted highways out there and I know there are some roads that are likely suspects for the Haunted Highway episodes but most of them are interesting, quiet, and relaxing giving us a moment to breathe as we hurry by in broad daylight.
A moment to spend talking with God as we travel home. That's prime multi-tasking!
Monday, July 29, 2013
I got the permission to go back into the pool! If I can't go this afternoon, I will go tomorrow morning. I am so excited!
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