Browsing the indoor shop at the wood-salvage yard yesterday morning, I looked over the impressive selection of “live edge” slabs leaning against the walls. A yellow Post-It Note had been stuck to one large plank across from the sales counter. It read,

“Scooby is not for sale”

The inscription made absolutely no sense to me — until, that is, I stepped back and took a closer look at that big chunk of red cedar. See for yourself (below).

I laughed out loud. Milling had exposed a diagonal cross-section of heartwood assuming an unmistakable form — accidental art, a cartoon dog, courtesy of Nature.

Deb and I still look for signs, literally and figuratively, everywhere we go. I’ve shared a bunch of them on this blog — notably, in “So I tucked my hair up under my hat,” “Long-haired freaky people need not apply,” “Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind,” and “Sometimes when you give what you give, you get what you get.”

Yesterday wasn’t a bonanza of placards, but we did catch a few — today’s header image, and these:

Here are a couple of others we passed along our route, photographed over the winter months:

Just like seeing beauty in an ordinary scene, so it is with the odd and the offbeat.

Take the breakfast menu at that diner in Mountain Home yesterday morning. My eyes scanned the typical offerings, settling on one of my favorite morning meals — sausage gravy and biscuits. Full order, please.

Right below that I saw the “Senior Menu.” I didn’t used to notice that sort of thing, but hey, now I’m a “senior” (technically). There were just four items on the list — patronizingly small portions, each an admission that us old people can’t handle a real American breakfast.

The last item ended with “milk & toast.” I saw it and thought, “milquetoast.”

My ass.

I took a picture. And then I had my full order of sausage gravy and biscuits.

You may have heard the military maxim that “no battle plan survives the first shot fired.” The Scottish poet Robert Burns said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” There’s an old adage that cautions, “Men make plans. God laughs.”

A guy named Murphy is famous for his law.

All remind us that rarely do things go perfectly. What we think will happen, hope will happen, intend to happen often is foiled. That’s life.

It applies to building a house on The Mountain, too, by the way.

This morning Deb and I sat down and had what I can describe only as an agonizing conversation. We ran the numbers — what we’ve done, what’s left to do and what we have. Humble as our “best-laid plans” may be, we can’t get there from here.

A lot of things brought us to this point. The long and maddening process of closing the sale of Second Chance Ranch set us back months, from fall through winter and into the spring, with the corresponding expense of camping since last July (with no end in sight). Weather conspired against us. The supply chain choked and, even in affordable Ozarkansas, prices went way up. Learning that a slab foundation wouldn’t be feasible, and then that piers weren’t, put us onto a footer-and-walls foundation (plus framing a deck) that blew a gaping hole in our budget.

The tax man didn’t do us any favors, either.

We had a candid conversation with our site contractor this afternoon. This is a guy who’s accommodated us at every turn — you’d have to see his invoices to understand the rates he’s reduced and the stuff he didn’t charge us for. We cut corners wherever we responsibly could and we’ve saved a lot of money on site work, well and sewer.

And it hasn’t been enough.

Originally we figured we had the money to build the house and make it livable, then sell the motorhome to fund the rest. Now we’re faced with needing the money from the sale of the motorhome just to get the house built — and yet we have to live in the motorhome until the house is at least minimally habitable. It’s a puzzle that can’t be solved.

At this point we truly don’t know what we’ll do next. We have some ideas, all of which exist outside that damnable, insoluble puzzle.

What we know for sure is that we own 20 acres on The Mountain. We have a well (needing a pump and supply line), a septic system (needing connection) and electric at the road. And yeah, we have those building materials, waiting to be assembled into a house. Most important, we know where Home is.

We’re not deterred. We will not be denied. Deb and I have overcome true hardships over the years, and this is another bump in the road. We’ll figure it out — get knocked down nine times, get back up ten.

The optimism you’ve sensed from me over the last 12 months survives. Our vision is clear. Our dream is very much alive.

We’ll just take a different path to get there. Stay tuned.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB

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