This is the true story of what can happen when a city boy buys property in the country, and some of the adventures we had helping them do some needed repairs.
It is another in my camping misadventure series that will become a chapter in an upcoming book.
Your feedback is welcomed and needed so please enjoy reading The farm, and leave your thoughts and comments at the end.
Kim and Wade Owen are our best friends. They live in the same manufactured home park and moved in at about the same time.
Wade was born and raised in Texas, but we don’t hold that against him…much, and Kim grew up in Illinois. She has been married several times, but we’re not sure of the exact count. All we know is that Wade holds the record for being married to her the longest. I’m not sure what the prize is for that, but it must be good.
It has always been their goal to find some property and build a house. But living in Oregon, land is very scarce and expensive. If Nadine and I happened upon a piece of property that we thought might be what they were looking for, we would make a note of it and let them know. I don’t know why we did this because we would tell them about the property, and Wade would start a dissertation about the taxes, zoning, and everything you could ever want to know. I don’t think there was any land in this area that they didn’t have the complete information on. Wade is an engineer by trade, and every aspect of the land search was done with great detail, including searching the records at the county court house. Nothing was left to chance.
One afternoon, Kim and Wade came over and announced that they were the proud owners of the cheapest land in Washington County. Three and one half acres just outside the small town of Banks, Oregon. Now Banks is the kind of town where you never have to change your monogram when you get married. It has one grocery store and a gas station. It also has a hardware store that carries everything from soup to nuts. It’s a farming community full of red neck stock car racers that get together every Saturday night in the summer to race around the one half mile dirt oval. There’s one lazy police officer that just sits on the front porch with his radar gun looking for speeders as they come into town.
They picked us up on a Saturday morning and we made the 30-mile drive to the “farm.” As we made the last turn, and headed down the road, Kim told us to look up ahead and the property was on the left. I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but this wasn’t it!
The “farm” sits on a pie shaped lot. There was an old singlewide trailer at the narrow end of the property, a cement block well house, a 20x20 metal building, and a single stall horse barn. It’s bordered on two sides by a creek, and the road on the other. It had been used as a migrant worker home for the nursery across the road.
We pulled into the driveway and got out of the van to take a look around.
“So,” Wade asked, “what do you think of the farm?”
No words came to mind that could describe what I saw other than “this place is going to need a lot of work!”
They took us on a tour of the property and started explaining their vision. It was located on a flood plane and was zoned for exclusive farm use, so you can’t build on it. Wades expectations are that the zoning will change in about ten years, so they are just planning on fixing up the property and using it as a place to go on the weekends.
The county had told them that the trailer must be removed as it had been placed there without a permit, and the property was not zoned for living. So the process began of getting the “farm” cleaned up and useable for a weekend retreat.
Kim and Wade did a lot of work to the property over the next several months. They had the trailer removed, ran power to the pump house and barn, planted trees and flowers, and had it looking pretty good. Everything was going according to plan until…..
First, understand that Wade is not a country boy. He was born and raised in Houston Texas. Not exactly your rural community. The closest he’d come to the country was the beach house they had in Corpus Christie.
The first of many repairs to be done, was to hang the sliding door back on the track to the barn. It had been removed for some reason and was just leaning against the opening. It was spring by now, and the ground was pretty wet, as all it does is rain in Oregon from September until May.
Wade was on the ladder working on the door, when he got this strange feeling it was starting to lean to one side. With great calculations, he figured if he just pushed off the side of the ladder, it would go one way, and he would go the other. He had forgotten that he was in the country and things don’t always go according to plan.
He pushed off the ladder and it crashed to the ground, with him on top of it. I never said he was a smart engineer. One slight miscalculation, a trip to the VA hospital, and several broken ribs later, the farm had claimed its first victim.
After taking several weeks to heal, it was back to the farm to begin the process of getting the well to pump water. Wade and Kim made what would be one of many trips to the local Home Depot for the supplies needed. Wade looked over the assortment of pumps that were available and selected one of the largest horse power units they had. His assessment was that bigger would be better. After all, he had spoken with some of his engineering friends and they did all of the calculations to figure lift, gallons per hour, and pipe size so he knew exactly what to get. They had two types of pumps on the shelf, and he studied each of them with great interest. He called over one of the workers to have him explain the difference between the two choices. After spending several minutes listening to the clerk attempting to explain something he obviously knew nothing about, Kim just told Wade to grab one of the pumps and they headed for the check out counter.
We met them at the farm, and Wade and I started the process of getting the pipes and pump ready to install. This included removing part of the roof so we could lower the pipe into the well. We knew the well was a little over forty feet deep, so we started assembling the plastic pipe that would be lowered into the well.
I climbed up the ladder and Wade started feeding me the pipe. He went inside to maneuver it into the hole. Standing on the outside of the well house, with fifty feet of glued pipe bent in a big arch didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. As I started feeding the snake through the hole in the roof, the pipe took on a life of its own. We were putting too much pressure on the glue joints, and it didn’t take long before they snapped. So much for making easy work out of this project. So back to the drawing board we went, and we decided we’d have to do this in sections. The trick would be that I would have to somehow hold the pipe to keep it from slipping into the dark abyss of the well while Wade glued the joints together and let them dry before we lowered that section into the hole. This was another great BC plumbing job that took three times as long as it should have, and more than one trip to the plumbing store.
When we had all of the pipes glued and in place, it was time to hook them up to the pump. We set the pump in place and glued all of the pipes to it. We drilled a hole through the cement block wall and installed the faucet on the outside and then ran the wiring to the pump. We stepped back to marvel at the job we had just completed in slightly under seven hours. It wasn’t until we were getting ready to fire up the pump for the first time that we realized that Wade had purchased an irrigation pump and not a standard well pump. The only difference between the two types is that the irrigation pump does not come with a pressure switch to turn the pump on and off when you want water. Wade told Kim about the slight problem and Kim instructed Wade "take the pump back right now and get the other type of pump." Kim is the sort that doesn’t quite understand what it takes to get a job like this done. So Wade took her aside and stated with the famous line, “Kim, you don’t understand,” then finished by explaining it would work fine for the purpose of watering the plants and trees on the farm. With a well that is only forty-feet deep, you can’t drink the water anyway.
After we installed the switch, it was time to check out our day’s work. We fired up the pump, and we started pumping water from the well, and Kim started watering her plants. All was going well until Kim called out in a loud voice “Waaade, what did you do? The water’s all brown!” After doing some quick calculations, and talking to someone who drills wells for a living, it was determined that the one and one half horsepower pump motor had enough power to suck the whole county dry!! With a well that was only forty feet deep (most of the wells in the area for drinking water are over two hundred feet deep) we had over sized the pump for the well and we were pumping it dry and pulling the mud off the bottom. Oh well, it was just something that we would have to live with and over time, Kim has adjusted well and knows exactly how long to run the pump to water her plants before it needs to be shut down for a rest. Well, it was another fine job by BC plumbing!
After about six months, the farm was starting to take shape. Trees and flowers had been planted, brush behind the barn had been removed, and the trailer had been removed from the property. Kim and Wade decided it was time to rent a tractor with a brush hog and front loader to remove the rock from where the trailer had been and add it to the driveway so it wasn’t so muddy in the winter. The brush hog attachment would allow farmer Wade to mow the remaining three acres of land. They had an older riding mower, but it was no match for the field. You needed to wear a kidney belt just to ride the thing. The field had not been mowed in a long time, and wasn’t the most level ground you’d ever seen. Wade had attempted to mow it several times, but was no match for the pounding he took on that riding mower, especially with his ribs still healing from the ladder incident.
We spent the majority of that Saturday removing the rock from the spot that had been occupied by the trailer. Wade worked the front loader with the skill of a city boy engineer turned heavy equipment operator. Going in and scooping out rock, then dumping and leveling the driveway. Everything was going well until… we needed to remove a chunk of concrete that had been part of the foundation for the front steps. We rolled it into the bucket and Wade got back on the tractor and starting raising the bucket. The concrete decided it wanted nothing to do with being lifted so it flipped over the bucket and landed on the hood of the rented tractor with a heavy thud. Now the hood was dented and the John Deer paint was scratched. Luckily Kim worked for a body shop so getting the hood repaired and repainted would not cost as much as letting the rental shop do the work. We put that incident off to bad luck and started working again. All was going well again until…..scrape, bang, and the tractor came to a halt. We looked at the brush hog attachment and noticed it was sitting at a strange angle behind the tractor. Wade had managed to find the only piece of cement left in the area and wedged it between the brush hog and the tractor. It took us a while but we got the tractor free and readjusted the brush hog so it looked like nothing had happened. We decided to call it a day, and we all went home. Kim and Wade were going to return to the farm the next day to do some clean up work.
Nadine and I had just returned home that Sunday morning when the phone rang. It was Kim and she was hysterical. Wade had made a last minute decision to use the tractor and brush hog to mow the ditch. He was driving on the road and the tractor slid off the road and rolled over on him in the ditch. He had been mowing at the far end of the property when the accident happened. His foot had become trapped under the tractor, and he was hanging by the seat belt. He managed to shut the engine off, then released the seat belt. When he hit the ground, he dislocated his shoulder. Somehow, he was able to pull himself out from under the tractor and began crawling back to where Kim was working. At about the same time, Kim looked over because she didn’t hear the tractor running and noticed it off in the distance. It took her a short while to realize it was lying over in the ditch. She called the ambulance and then us to come out and get her. This time, farmer Wade had broken his right foot, and dislocated his shoulder. All work came to a halt at the farm once again until he was healed.
Wades father-in-law Ron and I made a trip back out to the farm to bring the van home, and examine the tractor. After all, it was a rental and they were going to be charged for the damage to the tractor.
We were standing in the field, inspecting the damage when one of the neighboring farmers came by. He stopped his truck next to the tractor and rolled down his window.
“Is the tractor O.K.?” he asked with a concern in his voice.
“It looks to be in pretty good shape considering it put my son-in-law in the hospital,” Ron explained.
“Well, let me know if you need help getting her back on the road, “ and the farmer drove off down the road.
Nothing brings the farming community closer together then finding a dead “ Deere” beside the road.
After another three months of healing, we decided to stick to activities that didn’t cause bodily harm, so we turned our attention to the inside of the barn. Building a bathroom was the first order of business. Now Kim isn’t the type of person who enjoys not having the proper facilities and when she was forced by necessity to use the “fresh air” bathroom in the dark she would. But after catching her in my headlights one night as we were leaving the farm, all that would have to change.
Most people would have settled for a port-a-potty that normal campers use. Not Kim. She had to have an electric port-a-potty. Press the button, and the water is pumped in for you. This was roughing it for her.
With the facilities now in place, it was time for Wade to broach the subject of camping at the farm. In her forty plus years of life, (we won’t say how plus that is) Kim had never been camping. To her, if it didn’t come with running water, indoor plumbing and a place to plug in her hair dryer she wasn’t going. Roughing it to her was no room service.
Wade convinced her to just go and look at the camping equipment that was available and she might change her mind. They had the farm, and it would be great to be able to spend the weekend there if they had a place to stay. Kim tried to convince Wade to buy a pull trailer as he calls it (but he’s from Texas so what does he know) and they would stay in that. After checking out this option for several weeks, he finally convinced her to start looking at tents. After looking at several models and styles, they purchased their first camping gear and were ready to start their new adventure. They stayed at the farm a few nights so Kim would get the feel of camping without anyone else there so that in case it didn’t work out, she wouldn’t feel embarrassed. She discovered, to the amazement of everyone, that she liked it so we were invited out to spend the night camping at the farm.
We didn’t own a tent, so we borrowed one from a co-worker of Nadine’s. After loading it, our sleeping bags, and an old air mattress we had into the car, we headed for the farm. When we got there, and took the equipment behind the barn to set up, I just laughed at their set up.
Kim had decided that if she were going to be “camping,” it would be her way. She wasn’t going to sleep on the ground or on some cheap air mattress so she got the biggest airbed I have ever seen. The damn thing is three layers high! Wade told me when they first set up the tent, and inflated the bed his head hit the roof of the tent. Now most people would have taken the airbed back and exchanged it for a smaller version, but not Kim. She took the tent back and got one to fit the mattress. This tent is HUGE! The box says it will sleep 8 normal people, or Kim. It’s 16x20 with over seven feet of headroom. Add to that the 27-inch color T.V, the night stands, and heater and you have a palace fit for the King of Saudi Arabia! I had never seen anyone at any campgrounds that puts SHEETS on their bed in a tent, only Kim would think of that.
Their daughter, Kelly and their son-in-law Keith came out to spend the night as well. We had all set up camp and Kim and Wade went around to the front of the barn to get something. I went inside their tent, and opened one of the three air valves on their bed and was slowly letting some of the air out. Kim came back and went inside of the tent and jumped on the bed and it started sinking to the ground.
“Waaade, this damn bed has a leak. Take it back now and get me a new one! Wade went into the tent and was scratching the bald spot on his head, and with the skill of an engineer, began trying to figure out where the leak was until Kelly let the cat out of the bag by starting to laugh. Wade looked at the cap and saw it hanging and we all started laughing at her. It’s a good thing we can all take a joke.
While the bed was getting re-inflated, Wade started the fire we would use to cook dinner. We were having steak, baked potatoes and what farm dinner would be complete without Bush's baked beans cooked in the can.
When the wood fire had created enough red-hot coals, Wade took the potatoes that had been wrapped in aluminum foil and placed them in the fire pit and covered them with hot coals. He had seen this done on some outdoor cooking show on television, but he had obviously gone to get a coke when the most important information about baking potatoes this way was being given out.
While the potatoes were cooking, we got the rest of the dinner ready. Once the steaks were cooked, and the beans were boiling in their can, Wade proudly removed his potatoes from the fire. They looked a little burnt and made a funny “thud” when they hit the plates. We all started to unwrap them and discovered that Wade had only wrapped them in light duty aluminum foil and they were burned and hard as a rock! “Waaade, these potatoes are ruined.” I never knew it was possible to incinerate a potato, but farmer Wade had managed to do it. We had learned another lesson at the farm. Always use heavy-duty aluminum foil when baking potatoes in a wood fire.
We sat up and talked for several hours and watched as the sun set behind the coast range to the West. We were all getting tired and decided to turn in for the night. It’s very dark and quite at the farm and as we lay in bed listening to the coyotes howling in the night, we all fell fast asleep.
At about 5:30 a.m. we heard the sounds of a diesel tractor that was heading in our direction. I looked out the door of the tent to see the farmer that owned the property to the south coming toward the edge of the property towing the irrigation sprinkler. If you’ve never seen one of these contraptions, it looks like a very large water cannon that sprays a very heavy stream of water in about a one hundred foot arc that will take out anything that’s not nailed down. You can just imagine what that thing would do to a simple tent.
Wade stepped out of his tent and approached his neighbor. It was quite a sight to see Wade in his P.J’s and bare feet going out to plead his case with the farmer. The farmer just sat on his tractor, pipe clinched between his teeth, and said “I’ll give you thirty minutes before I start spraying,” then unhooked his sprinkler from the tractor and headed back down the row. I swear I heard him mutter something about damn city folks as he drove away.
By now, Kelly and Keith were awake, and Wade returned to inform us he had talked the farmer into giving us thirty minutes to break camp before he started the sprinkler. From where it was sitting, it would be a direct hit on our little camp. As it was, the sprinkler would be throwing water over the barn and into the middle of the property while it made its circle. It was programmed to move backward, slowly as it irrigated the cornfield. You would be amazed how fast you can break camp when the thirty-minute warning is sounded. It must have been quite a sight for the farmer to watch as six city folks stumbled around deflating their beds, and pulling down three tents in record time.
We took the equipment into the barn to do the final packing in case the farmer decided to start the sprinkler before our time was up. Sure enough, as soon as we were inside the barn the unmistakable sound of the sprinkler started and we heard the water shooting out and over the barn.
Breakfast was the next item on the list. Wade pulled out the grill and opened the large sliding door and placed it close to the opening. We couldn’t put it outside of the barn because of the water spaying over it. With each revolution of the cannon, it moved back slightly and we watched, as it made it’s way closer to the barn door.
Wade, being the “white trailer trash” that he was, went out and moved his van into the path of the water cannon. “Might just as well get the van washed while we wait,” he said in his Texas drawl.
I laughed as I watched him time the sprinkler coming around so he would be able to turn the van around so both sides got washed. He was off just slightly on the last turn, and ended up getting pretty wet on his way back into the barn.
We have made many more camping trips to the farm, and Wade has even learned how to properly cook potatoes in the fire. But one thing never changes, we always bring a can of Bush's baked beans to cook over the fire, and we always make sure we are out of the way of that water cannon.
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|Reviewed by J Howard
|Life is so different for so many. Some don't know the life of a farm or the work or the love of the country...funny side to life!|
|Reviewed by Jack Lowe
|You've really captured an environment and a time in a concise, insightful way. Good job, Mr. Vizi.|
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|funny write, roger! LOL enjoyed! (((HUGS))) and love, your friend from texas, karen lynn. :)|
|Reviewed by Janet Caldwell
|This is a great story and the funny thing is I am the one from Tx.and have been married a bazillion times (don't know why they'd want to) always the bride, never the brides-maid. Alan are still together, that's a plus, I think. lol Excellent story Roger.
|Reviewed by Victoria Murray
|Roger, I had fun reading this one! Thanks for posting it!
|Reviewed by mike
|your hair is really geting gray. nice story
|Reviewed by Bobby Ruble (Reader)
|Very enjoyable, Roger. Cannot wait to read more of these adventures.|
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|Reviewed by Carolyn HowardJohnson
|Roger: You are on the upside of a trend and in very good company for best sellers. A recent book told of the travails one couple had fixing up property in Tuscany. It was a best seller. This may be, too. There's something about old property and houses. Remember the song "This Old House was...."
|Reviewed by Kristie Maguire (Reader)
|Excellent story! I was ROTFLMAO!!
Kristie Leigh Maguire, author of "Emails from the Edge" and co-author along with Mark Haeuser of "No Lady and Her Tramp"