Saturday, August 4, 2007

"Wanna Buy Some Haunted Swampland?"

One of the questions that always comes to mind as we look at another farm or property is, “Lord, is this the place you have for us?” My wife usually prays that the Lord might make it abundantly clear if we should keep looking, and it is interesting to see how the Lord sometimes answers that prayer.

The land we were looking at was about 144 acres with a house listed as “having no value.” Well, when we arrived, we discovered that they had certainly told the truth about the house.

Both it and the garage had seen better days. Upon driving up, our realtor--ever the optimist--said, “Looks like the house has a new roof.” My wife took one look at the house and the property and took her parents shopping at the nearby outlet mall. It doesn’t take her long to discern the Lord’s will. I, on the other hand, need a little more convincing.

The realtor, our two boys, and I walked around the property for an hour or more, trying to see where the property lines were, checking out the views, and seeing where we could possibly build a house. The property had about 50 acres on the north side of the road and about 90 on the south. As we traipsed around the northern piece, we came across three deer carcasses, all together. I did not like the idea of having to deal with poachers on my land.

As we crossed the road to look at the southern piece, we noticed a lot of tree stands up in the woods for deer hunting. I took that as a good sign. However, as we moved further into the woods, we found the land becoming more and more swampy. In fact, the dirt road into the property had small logs laid across the road side-by-side, so that whatever vehicle might venture into this area wouldn’t get bogged down in the mud. I kept trying to think of the brighter side of this swamp, but I must admit it was getting harder and harder.

When we finally found our way out of the swamp, we noticed something different about the house/shack. The front door was wide open! We had checked earlier, and it had been shut tight and locked. We didn’t see any vehicle around, so we were pretty surprised by this. Wondering what kind of person might be living in this shack, and whether or not he might be friendly, we cautiously approached.

Since I was the paying client, our realtor bravely went first, realizing that he wouldn’t get paid if I didn't survive. I cautiously followed, keeping one hand on the revolver in my coat pocket (I had it loaded with snake pellets, not knowing what we might find hiking through the fields). As we slowly approached the open door, one of my sons commented, “This is like a bad movie!” I had to agree.

My son took the above picture. You can see me just before I entered the house. I think he wanted the picture in case he never saw me alive again.

The realtor and I went inside, leaving the two boys safely outside--or so we thought. We slowly went from room to room with the realtor calling, “Hello? Realtor!” It didn’t take us long to see that the two downstairs rooms were empty – of human life, that is. There were plenty of old furniture and boxes of stuff all over the place. I began to think that a homeless fellow was probably staying there.

Since we had been making plenty of noise, and the stairs didn’t look particularly strong, we decided to pass on the idea of going upstairs. If anyone was upstairs, they probably wouldn’t look too kindly on our poking our heads up there. So we decided to go back outside. That’s when my oldest son came around from the back of the house, saying, “He’s back there! He’s coming out of the outhouse!” At just that moment, out from around the corner of the house, came an old mountain man wearing faded jeans, a flannel shirt, and suspenders, carrying a roll of toilet paper under his right arm.

Turns out that he was the owner, that he had lived most of his life on the place, and had recently moved (or been moved) to a high-rise retirement home in town. He told us how he still loved the place and that he came out about every day just to see how it was doing. He was a nice old guy, and after talking with him I looked at the old shack with a new appreciation.

As we left to pick up my wife and her parents at the outlet mall, I began thinking about how to work it so this place would work for us. I went through different scenarios in my head about making an offer on just the northern part of the land, but would I want someone else to own the great hunting piece (temporarily forgetting that it was swampland), perhaps I needed to retain a first right of refusal on the southern piece, etc.

After picking up my wife, we decided to take another run by the property. There was a nice house recently built on the edge of the land, and I wanted my wife to see what a nice place we could build there. As it turns out, this second visit was going to seal it for us.

As I turned onto the road that led to the land, we noticed something up ahead, right in the middle of the road. As we approached, it turned out to be two vicious-looking dogs. They decided that they did not like us, and were determined not to let us pass. They started barking ferociously and actually charged the van! It seemed like they were trying to bite the tires. They were so close in front of me that I couldn’t see them through the windshield. Afraid of running over one of the dogs, I finally came to a complete stop. They kept right on barking viciously and circling the van. This went on for about 5-10 minutes. There were several men working in a field next to the road, but we didn't see anyone making an effort to call the dogs off. When we realized that their owners weren’t coming out to get the dogs any time soon, I started to move slowly forward.

As we finally pulled away from the dogs (after their following us for over a quarter mile), I realized that we didn’t want to live next door to those dogs or their owners. I couldn’t see how we could expect to draw customers to our farm if they would have to brave those dogs each time. I don’t think we would want to brave those dogs each time we went out either. Pictures of what might happen the day I inadvertently ran over one of the dogs came to mind. No, this was not the place for us.

Next weekend we go back to visit the latest farm we are looking at. And so far we have not been attacked by dogs at this place. Does that mean this is the place for us? We shall see…