Life, Lessons and Old Farmhouses
People are interesting.
There are good people, the ones who will walk through fire for you (and you for them), there are bad people and there are those who you thought you knew to be better people.
You’ve probably known the kind… they start out strong, they call you “friend” somewhere along the way and they work with you toward common goals. Goals like restoring an old farmhouse.
Before you know it, you’re knee deep in time and money, right there with that friend who is all about helping, albeit at a price, of course.
In my case, it’s a labor of love, and friends who want to help are welcome.
Amy and I are restoring an old farmhouse that has been in my family for generations. It’s one of the last bastions of “homestead” that connects me with my youth. Call it a weakness, I suppose.
The memories, both good and some not so, are there forever. I prefer the good and that’s why we decided to try to put a smile back on her face and help extend her life and value.
When we started on the project, back in March of this year, the house was overgrown by weeds and brush. It was an undertaking, but we were all in. Sweat equity and child labor are things we believe strongly in.
Over the last number of months Amy, our kids and I have filled more than a dozen bags with bottles and cans and hauled them out of the woods, bush hogged and chain sawed privet hedges that have turned into trees, killed termites, hauled rotten wood and a rat infested stove to the dump, burned brush and slowly begun the process of giving back a “Painted Lady” the sense of pride she had when she was first built back in 1927.
We quickly realized that we desperately needed restoration assistance. Along the way we added a mule train driver, of sorts, for the journey. He seemed like just what we needed to get us where we wanted to be. I’ll call him Les. Not his real name, but appropriate.
Les fancies himself a craftsman. He brought a team of laborers who, according to Les, always needed “adult supervision” or else they might not get the job right.
After a strong start on demo there were days that Les and the crew might not show up, of course they had other obligations. Understood… see you next week, I said.
There were other days that the team cleaned up paint brushes or “blew the hoses” around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, only to leave shortly thereafter. It is hunting season, after all. As a matter of fact, Les was welcomed to hunt on our hilltop, right next to the Painted Lady. He’s a bow hunter so the intrusion was minimal. He also borrowed a car of mine so he could travel comfortably and hunt in South Georgia over a long weekend. “Mi Casa es su Casa”, as they say. After all, that’s just what friends do, right?
As time marched on, there were weeks that only two of the four members of the team would show, and work would continue, albeit limited in scope.
Les and I shook hands on a completion date, in some useable form, of Amy’s birthday, so we could celebrate there on the hilltop. That was back in July. We missed that deadline.
As the months ticked by the needed payment amounts increased (the jingle, as Les likes to call it). Work seemed to slow but the payments didn’t.
Several months ago Les had given me a rough idea of cost to completion, and that number was looming. Thanksgiving was, too, which was the next date for a celebratory completion meal to be had, on the hilltop. Les and I were determined not to let that date pass.
Upon closer scrutiny, I began to realize that, of all the various projects Les and the crew had begun (and there are many), literally not one had been brought to completion.
The end of the story is just as you would expect. Les and I have parted ways. As I told him, I’ll sleep just fine for my part of our agreement. Les was paid in full and has now cashed the final check I gave him. The painted lady is better than she was, and for that I’m happy.
Les played me better than most though, and we still have a ways to go to get the house completed.
We still need plumbing, tile work, oh, and a useable toilet would be nice. Ofcourse Les promised that a while back but other projects just got in the way. We’ll also need some electrical work, lighting and paint because that’s not quite finished, either.
Regardless, our painted lady will smile again soon. Amy and I are committed to completing the task. For family, for friends, especially the real ones, and for future generations not yet known. There will soon be (more) smiles and laughter on our hilltop, and lots of it, too.
We look forward to getting it done. We’ll find another mule train driver and I’ll do my best to know that he’s committed to helping us complete our journey. If he wants to call me friend, I’ll do my best to cautiously remember the lesson Les taught me. Regardless, the next guy will be welcomed as a friend, too, I’m sure. It takes more than some jingle out of my pocket to change me from the person I am.
When we finish, I’m sure it will feel like a major life victory. I look forward to the day.
When it’s done, you’re invited to drop by, or sooner, if you like. If you come by soon, you might want to bring a hammer, a roll of TP and maybe some pocket warmers, too. It’s a little cool inside at the moment. Regardless, we’d love for you to visit.
You’ll always be welcome, too, Les. That’s just how we treat friends on our hilltop.
Happy Thanksgiving. 🍁