Tag Archives: The Great Kentucky Adventure

The Great Kentucky Adventure Vol 4, Part 1: A Deal Too Good To Be True

Summer was coming to a rapid close, and we were still scrambling to get out of Jackie’s miserable house before another Kentucky winter set in. We explored properties off the mountain, but nothing we saw was feasible.

Then one day, Mike was talking to a man who had a property on the mountain. 60 acres down (another) treacherous, rutted driveway, with an unlivable dilapitated farmhouse and a river! He was willing to do a rent-to-own deal. To add to our joy, he had a (very!) small cabin just down the road that we could live in while we were getting the homestead underway.

A fairly casual contract was drawn up and we quickly rehomed our large livestock and moved in.

In lieu of rent for the cabin, there were repairs to be made. This place was a dump. Mike had to redo all the plumbing and the sleeping arrangements were not ideal. The kitchen was very long and narrow, with a huge table in the middle, which necessitated sidling past the chairs to get from the stove to the sink. It was put together by the owner’s son, Toby. According to his brother, Toby was “a real good builder.” Alas, Toby was nothing of the sort.

Being the stubborn family that we are, we hunkered down and started working to try to make this all work. The boys set up a semi-permanent camp on the property and got to work on it. We made do in the cabin. It was dry and not moldy, and we had heat and hot water with a tub/shower, so we were content enough.

One of many cemeteries on the mountain.

Unfortunately, our kind benefactor had a serious illness and passed away a few months later. Prior to his passing, he had reiterated that he wished for us to continue working towards our 60-acre homestead on a rent-to-own basis.

Doubly unfortunately, his widow was a hateful, bitter shrew and his sons were illiterate, violent alcoholics and drug addicts.

A few weeks after Harold passed, Mike walked down the street to give Sharon the property payment. When he came back, he sat down next to me on the porch, took my hand, and said, “Sharon said they needed the money from the property fast, so she sold it outright to someone else for cash. And, we need to move.”

Such heartbreak! I sobbed my heart out, not only for our shattered dreams, but for the fact that we had to find a new place to live after only three months! I honestly don’t know how we made it through those couple of years on that mountain. I know it aged me greatly. So much heartache and deprivation in such a short period of time. Yet none of us would trade that experience for the world. We learned so much about ourselves and what we wanted out of life, of our perseverance, and how we can face anything when we are supported by people who love us.

Our next move was akin to the scene in Dr. Zhivago, when he and Lara stop at the abandoned, once luxurious mansion, which is now decrepit and succumbing to the elements…

The Great Kentucky Adventure, Vol 2, part 3: Losing Everything

Photo by Enric Cruz Lu00f3pez on Pexels.com
Cascading Failures

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