Our second summer at Sam’s house was mostly enjoyable, but there were some storm clouds looming. Primarily, the mountain began chewing up our vehicles. First, my old PT Cruiser simply could not handle the mountainous 1:20 drive to and from work each day in Lexington, and one day, she just gave up the ghost.
Having limited funds precluded us from obtaining a more reliable vehicle, so we began a downward spiral of desperately-purchased, poorly maintained used cars which promptly all died in various spectacular ways. In that last year at Sam’s we went through a total of SIX vehicles.
Finally, with no other options, I was regretfully forced to terminate my employment at the hospital. This left us with Jenny and Justin working at the closest jobs possible at a factory down in Stanton, and I began a new chapter as a stay-at-home homeschooling Grandma. We had one vehicle for seven people and some very meager income. To say we were struggling would be an understatement.
Losing Our Beautiful Mountain Home
Of course, at this point, purchasing Sam’s property as originally intended was simply not going to happen. It was in the fall that Sam put the property on the market. In short order, a wealthy South African gentleman expressed interest. The realtor arranged a walkthrough of the home. It was understood by all that we would be able to remain on the property as renters if he decided to purchase it.
Appalachian Kentucky has animals (and some people!) that wish to do you harm. Like many rural families, we kept firearms for sport and protection. So right around Thanksgiving, the walkthrough was scheduled and the couple came and looked at the house.
Shortly after, we heard from Sam. The South African gentleman was going to purchase the property; however, there was a change in plans: Because they saw our firearms, they no longer wished for us to continue renting there. No negotiations, no compromises. You have a month to get out. Merry Christmas!
At this time, we had seven people, three horses and a colt, a cow and a calf, and dogs. So very many dogs, including one with a brand new litter of puppies! We also had no money at all for a security deposit nor for a U-Haul.
By this time, however, a few of the locals had somewhat accepted us and were a little bit more helpful to us in finding a rental on the mountain. We were introduced to Jackie and his wife Johanna, who lived in a nice home on Watson’s Ridge. Jackie had his old family home on the mountain, about a mile from Sam’s. We explained our situation to him, and he agreed to let us stay there with one caveat. The house had been vacant for years and was not only filthy, but mildew had permeated everything. In lieu of a security deposit, we were to clean the house.
It was not the most ideal situation for us; the driveway was treacherous, steep, and impassable during ice storms, and the house was precariously situated on a gigantic sinkhole over an underground reservoir. However, there was room for people and animals and we were not going to be homeless on a remote Kentucky mountain in the winter.
So the rush was on. Our entire family spent a full week, including all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with buckets of bleach water, mops, and rags scrubbing away the grime, filth, and mildew that covered every square inch of this cold, desolate home. One bathroom was so moldy and decaying as to be unusable, and we simply kept that door closed for our entire stay there. Bedrooms were filled with debris, which all needed to be bagged and taken to the dump.
And so, for the second time in my life, I moved house on New Years’ Day…
Next: The Great Kentucky Adventure Vol 3, Part 1: Ice Follies
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