Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Girl of Steel

Kelly put up the round pen by herself. She said, “That’s it; I’m not waiting anymore.” We’d been here for two months but hadn’t been able to get to it. We had to put up fences, bulldoze dirt, and find places to put all the stuff sitting in the middle of the barn that we used to keep in the garage because we don’t have a garage here yet. We had to paint, unclog bathtubs, fix windows, change faucets, and put up a mailbox. (The mailbox might have been a bad idea because it was promptly stuffed with bills.) We had to repair the washing machine (washing machines are always broke when I move to new houses, even if they are brand new, which made me madder at Slow Bob for extorting me for mine), install a dishwasher, and change light fixtures and light bulbs high up on the roof of the barn so we could see where we were walking at night.

I’m not even talking about the unpacking. I’m not talking about finding hay, a farrier, a vet, a doctor for the humans, the dump, a new bank, an oil company, and motor vehicle where we went back and forth a half dozen times to change our licenses, registrations, and get the vehicles inspected. Of course the van failed because Kurt didn’t get all dressed up and lead the guy on like I did. So then we had to find a new car mechanic. I still don’t have one of the trailers done. It still has Virginia plates on it and is, in fact, illegal. So the round pen was low priority.

But Kelly was itching to ride because it turns out we’re in a real horse community and she joined the 4-H club and Future Farmers of America and made friends with the other girls in town who wear blinged-out belts, pink camouflage caps, and barrel race like she does.

But I wouldn’t let her get on any of the horses until they’d been worked in the round pen first. They had been sitting around for months twiddling their thumbs while we packed and unpacked and were jumping out of their skin being in a new place and on a busy road where a whooshing car made them all throw up their heads and take off. The perimeter of the property was not fenced in yet so there was no safe place to ride if someone bucked while Kelly was texting and she fell off. Even though she swears she never texts when she rides.

I’m a worrywart mommy. She’s got the helmet and the emergency-release stirrups and I insist on working a horse in the round pen first after he’s been off from work for any length of time. It’s not the same as on a lunge line. In the round pen, they can really blow off steam. At the least, you can see what you’ve got under the hood. Some people might say I’m overprotective. I don’t care. It’s a dangerous sport. She’s lucky she’s riding period.

So she put up a whole sixty-foot, steel round pen by herself. She had to drag it over, panel by panel, from the other side of the yard. I have no idea how she got it started and got the first panel up. You have to hold the first one up so you can attach the next one to it. Then you angle them like a Hallmark card to keep them standing while you get the third one. You can’t angle one panel all by itself so I don’t know how she did it. It’s a job for two men! But it’s up now and she’s been riding. She rides most days, trying to get her horse conditioned so that she’s ready for the barrel racing season.

Now I have to figure out how to get her to put the stall mats down. I’m thinking, how can I link the stall mats to the prom?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Love/Hate Relationship with a House

At one time, I had more rooms in my house than I knew what to do with. We had ten rooms if you count the scullery and the enclosed porch, but not the exterior porches (three down and an upstairs sleeping porch),

the bathrooms, the attic, the cellar, and the hallways which were big enough to rearrange the furniture that was in them when I had a better idea. Of course that house almost killed us, trying to heat it.

We had two gas furnaces, one up and one down, four fireplaces (two with woodstoves), and an outside wood furnace that took two pickup truck beds full of wood per week to keep going. And still we were cold.

I have a love/hate relationship with that house. I feel guilty for unloading it because it was incredibly beautiful with original details like bead-board on all the walls and ceilings (one of the reasons we couldn’t heat the place—I’m talking about individual slats of one-inch bead-board, not paneling),

unpainted woodwork,

windows with wavy glass, a built-in china cabinet with the original owner’s name penciled inside and the date—1904,

turn-of-the-century light fixtures, and fifty-three acres of land abundant with flowers and flowering trees like purple plum trees, ornamental cherries,

rhododendrons, azaleas, and hibiscus. There were also red bud trees, crepe myrtle, a weeping cherry, wisteria, and daffodils. There were cobblestone paths, gurgling creeks with hand-made bridges,

meadows and fields, barns, a cottage, and a carriage house that once was a rest stop for horses and buggies.

It was truly a beautiful place, more than anything I ever imagined having, and I continuously worked on it, feeling like I was saving it from the previous owners who had wrecked it. It took me two full years just to paint it. I couldn’t use a roller because of all the gaps in the bead-board and so I had to do it all by hand, including the ceilings. It took three coats of paint altogether because it had to be primed first. The ceilings were high, maybe another three feet or so higher than most standard ceilings, so that added to the painting, giving me more wall to cover and adding to the difficulty since I had to maneuver the ladder around. I finished painting it right about the time we sold it. Maybe it was the painting that almost killed me but I didn’t care because I loved that house and I worry about it because a house can so easily fall into the wrong hands and fall into disrepair and an old house, especially, needs constant attention and definitely constant painting.

I also feel guilty because I like the person I sold it to. I didn’t tell her about the Evils who lived next door. If you can call it next door. It was across the road, through the creek, and over the mountain if you went by four-wheeler or horseback. If you drove, it was three miles around. But it was the adjoining property nonetheless. The Evils were the previous owners who had wrecked it. Even though they were only there for a short time, perhaps they felt they had a claim to it forever, or maybe they just felt they had the right to ride roughshod over anyone in their path. At any rate, it was close enough for the Evils to stalk, harass, vandalize, rob, and assault me and my family. For what reason in their sick, demented minds, I really have no idea. The only thing I can come up with is they thought I called Animal Control on them. I hadn’t. But I was thinking about it. This was a bit of information I neglected to share with the person I sold the place to when I was telling her how lovely the purple plum trees looked when they were blooming.

I justified it by telling myself that I was going to die from the stress if I didn’t get out of there. I also told myself that the new owner—let’s call her Naomi—sort of deserved it because she tricked me into giving her the place for fifty grand less than I had planned to. Okay, forget “sort of.” There’s no “sort of.” If I’m going to be honest here, I wholeheartedly thought she deserved it, I was so mad that she scammed me on the price of the house. (Of course business is business and she was clever—I really can’t fault her for that.) I also thought that just because the Evils were attacking me, didn’t mean they would attack her, though I have to admit, if their record of fighting with everyone around town was any indication, it didn’t look good for the new owners.

But all’s well that ends well. Naomi was stronger than me and I think she was meant to be there (someday I will tell you the harp story) because she gave the Evils a run for their money and was instrumental in them finally getting arrested for animal abuse and it wasn’t long before they lost their house and hightailed it out of there, leaving the neighborhood the bucolic and peaceful place it once was.

(Ironically, they rented a place in the same county I had moved to and though I lived in fear of running into them, and did in fact see them in Walmart one time, which caused me to abandon my cart full of Great Value paper towels and Suave conditioner, I never saw them anywhere near my side of the county and so they had no idea where I lived.)

In addition, Naomi forgave me for selling her the place. When I finally came out with it, the story of what the Evils had done to us, and apologized for not telling her, she didn’t sue me, retaliate, or even get mad. We keep in touch. The Evils are gone and she got the place for a good price. Of course she’s freezing her ass off in there. But once the purple plum trees start blooming, she’ll forget all about that.