Friday, July 27, 2012

Eighteen Yards

There were four of us old guys over sixty-five, one about seventy and his young son and Ruby, also on Social Security.  We were waiting for the concrete trucks to arrive.  There would be two of them, each carrying nine yards, enough to pour a slab about 24 feet by 34 feet long.  This will be the foundation for the new house.  It is in the countryside but not really the country, five acre parcels fenced like city lots. Enough room for dogs to roam and chickens, a barn and a garden and the big house.
  It is a scenario that could become Reality Television although it is not the children moving back home, it is the parents, fresh out of bankruptcy and living in a small trailer next to a drained and very dried up pond on the five acre parcel owned by the daughter and her husband.  Multiple housing is not allowed on this property so they got a permit to build a "hobby room", 816 square feet, the new little house one hundred feet from the big house.  Families pulling together in these difficult times.
   My friends were caught up in the American Dream.  They are very interesting people, the hardest workers that I know.  He has been in construction all of his life and his wife hammering and painting along side him. Years ago they built a yacht in their backyard.  Just like that, a steel hulled fifty footer with teak and holly trim and big blue sails.  Then they set sail to unknown places and search the world for five years, this boat their home.
   Still years ago they sold it, too much of paradise they said, and moved into a little fixer upper house not far from my own house.  They remodeled it and improved it step by step and it became a pretty remarkable 900 square feet of perfection.  That is the way they are.  A little more effort than most of us, everything they build is perfect.
   The housing boom or bubble was going on then and their house increased in value with every improvement made, from the initial 45 thousand dollar purchase to over $100,000!  This was their sole asset and it increased in value monthly.  Maybe, they are thinking, they could build up a retirement nest egg?
    Five blocks away an opportunity came up.  An 8,000 square foot Church, long abandoned and in disrepair came up for sale!  $75,000 for a half city block and a falling down 8,000 square foot Church!  How could they go wrong?
  To make a long story short, they sold their little house and bought the Church.  They worked on it for over five years, every single day.  It became one big glorious residence with a beautiful shop with eighteen foot ceilings!  It appraised at over $460,000 and they had $275,000 in loans against it.  Certainly not a get rich quick scheme but a profit, or pay back for their labor of almost $200,000 for the five years they enjoyed working on it together.  It was just too nice to keep and now they wanted to retire, maybe get their little house back and some money in the bank!
   I think you know the rest of the story.  Timing is everything.  Almost overnight the housing bubble burst.
Oh the Church sold all right but it took two years to sell it and the final price?  $260,000!!!  Wow.
So, bankruptcy became the only path out and garage sales and scrounging for the money to buy a used fifth wheel and move it onto the daughter's property.
   If this were a Reality Television Series there would be many more seasons and we could meet their friends.
The six of us old people pouring concrete, it was quite a sight!  We all left after the concrete was laid, screed, floated and fresnoed.  Pretty flat by most eyes.  Edwin and Ruby spent hours on knee boards, hand troweling to perfection, after we all left. That is what they do, you couldn't stop them.
   Next week will be fun.  It will be like a barn raising.  Friends and family working together, also a part of the American Experience.


SooZeQue said...

I know that story! It's mine! Land Poor - house not worth what we paid. Life goes on and what I've learned is money is the root of all evil - unless you're giving it away.

stonepost said...

Yes, SooZee, this is the modern day version of "The Grapes of Wrath"!

CrimsonLeaves said...

So glad they have family to make their new project happen, Jerry. This little place will be their dream too. I can feel it in my bones.