Monday, March 19, 2012
Right from the beginning, we considered naming our new place Lucky 13 Farm. Kurt’s been wanting to get rid of the Smokin’ Bandits Ranch for a while now. I thought it was a clever name to come up with, being that we’re barrel racers and we smoke the competition. (Or at least we try!) Though young people, my own daughter included, wouldn’t get it since they’ve never seen that movie or have heard of Jackie Gleason or even Burt Reynolds.
eBay gave us a hard time about it. They refused to allow our name without a fight. They suspected we were selling illegal contraband—tobacco products—and I suspect they have people in India working the phones who don’t understand our vernacular and certainly not our jokes because it was like pulling teeth to get them to understand the smoke the competition thing. When they finally did give in, believe me, there was no appreciative chuckle.
Therefore, our farms have been nameless since the one in Oklahoma because we couldn’t think of anything better than Smokin’ Bandits Ranch and I’ve wondered if it was one of the reasons we’ve had bad luck at the places. It’s like having a baby and not getting it baptized. Or saying something bad is going to happen and not knocking wood, like You’re going to shoot your eye out with that BB gun, knock wood. But we couldn’t agree on anything. Kurt has been pushing for The Flying V Ranch for some time, but I think that’s too common. Flying this, Lazy that, Triple whatever. Blah, blah, blah. They’re all the same. Everybody’s got them. Granted, Lucky 13 is not unusual but at least it means something.
The yellow house sits on lot 13, block 13, plus the street address is 260. Thirteen plus thirteen equals 26. Just drop the zero! And let’s face it, we’re lucky that we got it. This was the first house we were interested in from the beginning, before we even put our house on the market in Virginia, but it was way out of our price range. Like a hundred grand out of our price range. I don’t even know how we found it—Kurt found it (he always finds good horses and good houses)—because the price put it out of our search criteria. Still, I inquired about it because I heard it was a buyer’s market and sellers were dropping their prices drastically. You never know.
The real estate agent was not encouraging. She said it had been on the market for a while but the seller wouldn’t drop a penny. Not a penny. She said it was a thorn in her side. All she does is take people there and he says no, no, no. Plus, there was water in the basement, behind the barn, and it needed a new septic tank. And the seller wouldn’t budge. Would not budge one iota.
We forgot about it and bought the winery house. Well, we didn’t actually forget about it—I thought about it from time to time—but we gave up on it. Then we lost the buyer for our house in Virginia and the seller of the winery house wouldn’t wait for us to find a new one. We weren’t looking for it, because we weren’t expecting the price to be lower, but when we found a new buyer, we stumbled upon the yellow house again, and lo and behold, the seller had dropped the price! The real estate agent was wrong! It was still out of our price range, but much closer. And it had a new septic tank! (This is a big ticket item in New Jersey; like thirty grand.) What luck!
And you know the rest of the story, how we got it and lost it and got it again. We’ve been very lucky. And so the lucky thirteen thing made sense.
The house was empty when we moved in but it was dirty. It had been either rented or vacant for thirty years. I’ve been here for three months and I’m just starting to get the smell out now. It smelled like a cellar. It was easier to clean, being empty, but I wish it had stuff in it.
I prefer to buy old houses that are filled with stuff. Even if I have to rent a Dumpster and get rid of it all, you never know what you’re going to find. In all the junk, there’s always a Roseville pot or an old violin or some funky lamps. In the Jackson house, I hit pay dirt. We not only found the hidden room with the coins, but the family of the deceased owner took what they wanted and left furniture, knick-knacks, and even this cool old picture.
One time we went to see an old house for sale that looked like the people just put their coffee cups down, stood up, left, and never came back. It was filled with furniture, pictures on the walls, clothes in the closets, and jars of blackberry jam in the pantry. A pair of eyeglasses sat on the arm of a naugahyde couch. An apron with green rickrack and a pocket to keep hankies or change for the milkman hung on a hook on the wall. The house needed a lot of work and there wasn’t quite enough land, but I didn’t care. I still wanted it, if only for the vintage wallpaper alone (grey with a white medallion in one parlor; tropical flowers—grey background, teal, burgundy—in the other) and the trunks upstairs crammed with linens, lace doilies and sepia-colored photographs as thick as cardboard. But when we went outside, I could smell the oil seeping up in the ground from the oil tank below. The land was polluted and we had to walk away. But I still think about that place all these years later.
There was nothing in this place because Mrs. Apple had been gone since the eighties and the guy I bought it from and the renters had picked it clean. But I did find a few things when I was cleaning. All lucky things. I found a chunk of Fool’s gold. I thought it was a plain old ordinary rock when I swept it up. What in the world was a piece of Fool’s gold doing just sitting on the floor in the corner all by itself? Okay, it’s not real gold but it’s gold! I found a Chinese fortune from a fortune cookie. It actually says something about cleaning and moving mountains. That’s me! Then I found a keychain with a little horseshoe on it stuck in one of the baseboards. Everyone knows horseshoes are lucky.
I also found a couple of other things. It seems that whatever I need, comes to me here. You might remember a few years ago I fished a wicker table out of the Dumpsters in Virginia using a strap with a hook on it that I got out of the back of the truck. The table was in great condition but, being wicker, the top is a little lumpy. So I keep a big atlas on the top of it and put my lamp on that. I’ve been wanting to get a piece of round glass for it. But now I don’t have to. The master bedroom was empty like the rest of the house. The only thing in there was a piece of round glass, exactly the size I needed, leaning in the corner like Santa Claus’s cane leaning in the corner in the house at the end of Miracle on 34th Street. Just waiting for me.
I also needed ice cube trays and couldn’t find them in any of the stores; not even Wal-Mart. Our refrigerator has an icemaker like most do nowadays but it’ll be a while before we can get to the plumbing. So I’ve been making ice for Kurt’s lunch box in plastic cups. Then I saw something blue sticking up out of the dirt in the backyard. Big expanse of green lawn and one little blue thing to catch my attention. Lo and behold, it was an ice cube tray!
One day, while walking across the front lawn making visual love to the house with my eyes, I found a wet dollar bill. Kurt said, “Now they’re throwing money at us here!”
I think we’re going to be successful here. I feel lucky.
And our luck has been good. Kurt found work subcontracting for flooring companies and we’ve been grateful for that. But our ultimate goal is to do our own work. We left Virginia on December 13, and we made our first sale on—guess—January 13. Then we made our second sale on—guess again—February 13. The first customer knocked on our door. Just knocked on our door and said, “I want to buy some carpet.” The second customer came from an ad in the newspaper that cost me six dollars. Six dollars!
Now all I have to do is break through that wall to get into the hidden room and find the real gold.