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Conversation at a small-town hardware store while waiting for paint to be mixed

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.


  1. FishOrMan
    FishOrMan August 25, 2015 7:27 am

    Speaking of running shine, made a joke about it over the weekend. Had some loved ones have to run roadblocks in the Okanogan to get back to saving their homes. Some others lost their home in the fires… When all those firefighters come sweeping in, they always bring Leviathan with them. Small town inundated with policy and procedure types, part of what got the three firefighters (following procedure) killed. Sigh… when the King’s forests are burned away, you just know they will find another excuse to meddle.

  2. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty August 25, 2015 7:55 am

    Oh, what great fun to talk to someone like that!!! So glad you got that opportunity. And to find they were a family of outlaws, at least founded that way, is just cream on the top. 🙂

  3. MJR
    MJR August 25, 2015 8:02 am

    Your place sounds a lot like my Brother-in-law’s home. It was built back in the nineteen forties without real plans. My Father-in-law bought it in the mid sixties and after he passed away I started helping with renovating the place.

    Two things stand out about that home. First the place was over engineered. I guess this was done to deal with the elements i.e. snow load which they get a lot of. Secondly there is not a single right angel in that place. Talk about frustrating… We turned that little place from a 3 bedroom into a 4 with a finished basement and new dining room.

  4. Ellendra
    Ellendra August 25, 2015 8:44 am

    “Great grandpa was originally from Wisconsin. He and his wife owned a bar/dance place back there.”

    Probably still has a street or a town named after him.

  5. LarryA
    LarryA August 25, 2015 9:07 am

    First the vanity, now this. There are no coincidences. Cosmic Forces are gathering.

  6. mary in Texas
    mary in Texas August 25, 2015 11:43 am

    The moonshiner from my home area always owed $100 on his truck. When he would get picked up, the dealer would go and claim the truck due to the lien. After the moonshiner would get out (and usually without even a fine), he would go and pick up his truck, paying off the lien and then getting another “loan” to keep the practice going. From time to time he would buy a new truck, paying cash–except for $100. This went on for many years, probably until one or the other died.

  7. Betsey
    Betsey August 25, 2015 12:30 pm

    My home was built in 1950 by two sisters, never married. They lived in it for 50 years, doing their own yard work even in their 80’s. The neighborhood called them “the girlies.” I have more fun listening to stories about them and their parties!

  8. Karen
    Karen August 26, 2015 4:11 am

    What fun to find out some history on your house! Sounds like you’re the best thing that’s happened to it in a very long time. Or ever.

  9. old printer
    old printer August 26, 2015 10:04 pm

    Claire, have you noticed that the locals have a slight accent similar to the people in that wonderful movie, Fargo? The upper midwest Scandinavian roots no doubt. Johnson and Wrikkala are everywhere.

  10. Claire
    Claire August 27, 2015 7:58 am

    No accents, old printer. I sure used to notice that when I lived in Minnesota. The Fargo accents were thick, especially in some rural areas where even people who’d lived in the U.S. for three generations still sounded like the Muppets’ Swedish Chef.

    Here, though Scandinavians abound, the accents have been mostly absorbed.

    The Finns, however, still proudly possess their “sisu.”

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