A Blessed Rescue
Obviously, from the day we arrived at the war zone that was the Jones’ mountain hideaway, the search was on to find a new residence. We had a number of things working against this being an easy undertaking, chief being we were outsiders.
The Appalachian mountain people tend to be very clannish. Many have been trapped in a loop of incomprehensible poverty and physical isolation for generations, and they have an almost innate, deep-rooted mistrust of strangers. So all our queries about local rentals were fruitless.
By the time I actually started my job, we had settled into a weary routine: I worked, Jenny continued cleaning and organizing the disaster of a house and stomping our dirty clothes in the bathtub, using a washboard for scrubbing. Justin spent all his daylight hours burning the still-huge piles of trash in the front yard, and Mike spent his days solving the crisis of the day and trying to make sure we had heat and water.
On my days off, a couple of us would pile into the PT Cruiser and drive all over Furnace Mountain, looking for a “for rent” sign. Mountain people don’t advertise, though. It’s all done through word of mouth.
There was a vacant house down Mountain View Cemetery Road. The house looked promising. The farm was a bit unkempt, but huge. Best of all, it wasn’t a garbage dump
Several weeks of desperate searching yielded nothing as promising as this! Mike was out driving past the vacant farm one day and noticed the neighbor across the street had come to his little cabin for the weekend. Mike stopped to see if he could get the owner’s contact information and Victor gave him Sam’s number.
Mike immediately called Sam and explained our situation, and the danger our family was in. Thankfully, Sam, not being a “local,” had compassion for us. He went out of his way to accommodate our needs and get us out of there. I honestly don’t know how we would have survived if it hadn’t been for Sam’s arrival in our lives right then.
After the phone call, Mike took me to show me our new house. We had only seen it from the road. The house itself was on a long, steep driveway.
It was even more beautiful up close. We walked up onto the huge front porch with incredible views, and peeked into the window.
I remember looking in and my knees buckling. I just started crying. The inside was magnificent! Wooden beams, hardwood floors, a gorgeous new soapstone wood burner, French doors leading to a master suite, and a kitchen! With running water, heat, lights, and a PANTRY!! Our nightmare was almost over.
Because I had just started my job, there wasn’t enough money for the 750.00 rent and the security. Sam let me give him the rent money and an expensive, sentimental item of mine that he would hold until I could make up the difference. One hurdle overcome.
But how were we going to move our stuff? There was no money left for a U-Haul, and we certainly couldn’t move two truckloads of stuff with a PT Cruiser.
Sam to the rescue once again! He actually came with a truck and trailer while I was at work one day and they made trips all day long. We finally felt safe!
It was April, springtime and the mountain forest was dotted with the delicate little purple flowers of the redbud. I fell in love with those trees, and I am happy that redbuds are prolific here in Missouri as well.
We experienced several challenges in the year-and-a-half we were at Sam’s place, but most of our time at the 250-acre farm was fun and productive.
I gardened and canned. We had some chickens, then lost them all due to some new chicks with coccidiosis. Learned a hard lesson about keeping new livestock separate from the established flock. Raised up and butchered a little goat our Hippie friends had gifted us. My job was going well. I joined the open heart team in the operating room, and got to see some awesome surgeries. Lots of heart, lung, and kidney transplants. The rest of my family wasn’t able to work, because there were simply no jobs nearby. It really wasn’t worth the gas money and wear and tear on the vehicle for a part time, minimum wage job.
So there we were, on this big 250-acre farm with a barn and fencing, in horse country. I might mention here that Mike has next-level negotiating skills, which have truly served us well over the years. Stanton, at the base of Furnace Mountain, was a tiny town: Grocery store, gas stations, a few small businesses. They also had a horse farm that bred and trained high-quality Rocky Mountain Horses.
So Mike went down to talk to the owner, and convinced him to let Mike and Justin take care of the grounds in exchange for horses at the end of the summer.
So for several months, Mike and Justin weed-wacked fence lines. Fence Lines covered in poison ivy. They spent the whole summer in misery and blisters.
Then one day I came home from work and there in the small fenced enclosure by the house were three lovely ladies: Cadillac, Cheeka, and Chill. Cadillac was a beautiful Palomino, with a smooth ride and lovely, patient disposition. Cheeka was a feisty, big Rocky Mountain horse with an attitude and an affinity for nipping. Chill was chill. She was a sweet, calm old mare at the end of her career.
We enjoyed riding those horses around the 250 acres, and spent a lot of time that summer exploring the property. That winter, we noticed that Chill was tiring easily and not her normal, happy self. We figured it would probably be her last winter, as she was pretty old. Our prediction about that turned out to be correct, but that wasn’t the reason for her lethargy.
One snowy night as I came home from work, my sons told me to stay in the car and they took me over to the barn. They said something was wrong with Chill. Of course, I was expecting the worst. We pulled up to the barn in the dark, and who should trot over to the fence but Chill, with her adorable little colt Chillin’ traipsing behind her! He was the sweetest little chestnut color. Apparently, some unauthorized shenanigans had taken place at the horse farm before Chill came to us! We sure enjoyed watching that little guy grow up.
Next: The Great Kentucky Adventure, Vol 2, part 2: Our Circle Widens
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