R. You’ve been working on this house a long time. Where do you live?
Me. Across the street from C_____. ‘Bout a mile from here.
R. Directly across the street?
Me. No. Two doors down.
R. Ohhhhhh, my great grandfather built your house! And the house farther down on the other side was my grandfather’s place. And … (goes on at some length)
Me. Cool. I knew the whole road had been owned by family a long time ago, but I didn’t know it was your family.
R. Yep. Your place wasn’t much more than a chicken coop when great grandpa first started it.
Me. I guessed as much. I can tell it was originally one room and that six additions have been made over the years. And I hate to tell you, R., but most of them were made badly. You know how old houses are; full of surprises. But I’ve never seen as many stupid decisions as in this place. Oh, I cuss. And cuss. And cuss.
R. Yep, that sounds like great grandpa.
Me. I love the place, though. It’s fixing up really nice and what a beautiful spot.
R. I tried to buy it from him once, a long time ago. But he said there were too many other grandchildren and great-grandchildren and nephews and he didn’t want to look like he was playing favorites.
Me. Too bad. ‘Cause if you’d have bought it you could be doing the cussing instead of me. And at least you know what you’re doing when it comes to construction, which I don’t.
R. No, I’d have just sold it. (laughs, then adds) Great grandpa was originally from Wisconsin. He and his wife owned a bar/dance place back there. He made moonshine and sold it under the table, so to speak. But he found out that the feds were onto him, so he fled out here. Literally packed up the car in the middle of the night and escaped. When he got here he added an “e” on the end of his name so they wouldn’t know who he was.
So my house may have been constructed and repeatedly added onto by an incompetent (and perhaps a drunken one). But he was also an Outlaw in the best American tradition.
R. also told me other things about the house, such as the fact that there was once a pond inside the (now blessedly defunct) mystery room I dubbed the not-a-garage. He didn’t tell me why there was an indoor pond. But such a thing would be entirely consistent with what I’ve experienced about the place.