Three years ago, Mountain Man and I took a rare vacation to the Ozarks. We fell in love with the beauty of the landscape and the friendliness of the people. With the population consisting of more cows than people, Mountain Man and I felt right at home and as we wandered the back roads, we wondered what it would be like to live in a place relatively untouched by time. Our question was to be answered around the next bend.
There it was. A dilapidated ranch house sitting in an overgrown garden surrounded by even more overgrown fields. A tattered “For Sale” sign hung from an ancient oak tree.
We walked around the property. I was busy imagining bringing the gardens back to their former glory. Mountain Man was eyeing the house.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I can do all the work and I can supply most of the materials. We wouldn’t have to spend much, and we could get away from Vermont for the winters and make some money at the same time. Let’s find out how much they want.”
Turned out the ranch was at a rock bottom price because of its condition, and we proceeded on with our plan, and hopefully, in the end, we’d sell the ranch to someone who would appreciate it as much as we did.
Little did I know when we closed on the house how one decision would turn my comfortable life upside down.
The old ranch was more than adequate, 1200 square feet to be exact, but when you have seven dogs ranging from a Newfoundland to a Chinese Crested, and all of them are in the house and the entire house needs redoing, that’s not a lot of room.
“How will we live? What will we do for floor space?”
“We have to make every inch count but don’t worry about it. I’ll work on one part of the house at a time and block off that section, and I’ll build us a bed and hang it on the wall framing and the dogs can sleep underneath us.”
And here’s how we slept:
With the dogs underneath us. And I, well, Mountain Man built a set of stairs so I could get my short, 5’2” self up in the bed.
My first real shock was when we arrived at the ranch house after a 32-hour drive, stopping to exercise seven dogs and feed and rest a trailered horse. We were all exhausted. All I wanted to do was take a hot shower and go to bed.
Mountain Man said, “You’ll have to wait until I get the fire going to heat the water.”
Me, blissfully ignorant, “What do you mean get the fire going? What about the hot water heater?”
“There isn’t any.”
That was my first sign this was going to be quite an experience.
As I waited for Mountain Man to build a fire to heat the water, I went into the bathroom. Oh, it was scary. There was an old indoor carpet rug on the floor that was soggy with moisture and the floor sloped about 3 feet down from the bedroom. I hoped with every step I took I didn’t fall through.
The linen closet was filled with mouse droppings and there were holes in the ceiling.
The bath was okay. Not exactly the shower from Psycho. I could cope. A little elbow grease and it would be fine.
My desire to be clean and warm overrode my feelings of fear so I took a deep breath, hopped into the shower and waited for warm water to wash over me. And I waited, and waited and waited.
Finally, I heard a noise, whir, clang, bang and a big sputter. Bam, small pebbles started hitting me all over.
“HELP,” I screamed for Mountain Man. “There’s rocks coming out of the shower head. OUCH!!!” You think I would have jumped out of the way but I was so surprised, I just stood there.
“I guess there is a problem.” My Mountain Man said. Nothing like stating the obvious to a tired, irate woman.
“I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT HOT WATER.” I was glaring at Mountain Man as if it was somehow all his fault.
“Don’t worry. I’ll fix it.” And he did, but it took days. Mineral deposits had calcified throughout the old water lines. Good thing Mountain Man prefers a natural smelling woman because I reeked, and I was fuming.
Finally, he got the shower working, but every time I turned it on, the house filled with sewer smell. EWW!
Mountain Man discovered the plumbing wasn’t vented properly and every time I ran the water, the smell from the septic tank came back into the house.
I finally got to the point where I’d tell Mountain Man to start the fire, then I’d throw open all the windows (never mind that it was 20 degrees outside), run into the shower and stay long enough to get clean. We couldn’t keep living this way so Mountain Man turned his attention to building a new bathroom.
First he had to frame the new bathroom space and put in the walls. The old bathroom got ripped out to become part of a new master bedroom suite.
Next he installed the new bathtub and toilet and after that he ripped up the old floors to install a drainage line that actually went to the septic tank.
He built the cabinetry from ash wood logged from our farm in Vermont.
We purchased the vanity but when we got it home, it didn’t fit the opening. No problem, Mountain Man just planed it down to the right size.
At last, I had a beautiful, new clean bathroom complete with hot water and no sewer smell.
And now I know true love means making sure your sweetie never has rocks falling on her while showering.
Let me know if you enjoyed this Ozarks adventure. It’s one of many that changed both Mountain Man and me forever.