Suzy and I have been friends for nearly 15 years. We met when gozarks.com was in its heyday and she contacted me (as editor) with some questions about the region of the Ozarks where I lived as she had a hankerin’ to move.
Today, Suzy’s reclusive residence in Izard County sports a hand-laid cobblestone paver-brick floor, tougue-and-groove planked walls, handcrafted mini-4-poster bed. Hard to believe this was once a dirt-floored pole barn.
Which she did, to a small (neglected) house on the Middle Fork of the Little Red River that she (amazingly) hand-crafted into a sprightly manifestation of elegant utility, homespun charm and humble grace. Replete with simple touches of user-convenience and common sense, every necessity of living life comfortably was delightfully woven together as an accommodating home.
We lunched there several times over the course of many months, in her charming kitchen, next to the massive stone hearth in her ‘open floor plan’ living room, over which she had hand-carved a mantle to read: “This is my rest forever. Here I will dwell because I desire it.”
The email from Suzy, about a month ago, that came with this pic: “This photo shows a gaillardia in bloom. These are domesticated wildflowers, and they grow in even poor soil, resist droughts, and really require no care at all. The foliage just looks weed like, but butterflies do enjoy hovering around the flowers. I’d never seen these, until I grew some. I’ll save seeds, if you want some.”
Lunch with Suzy was always a delicious treat for me, still being immersed in the parenting and homeschooling of children, the duties of caring for my disabled husbnd, and the breadwinner agenda of a professional work-a-day-world.
To just sit and relax in the company of another intelligent woman, swapping stories of times past and hopes yet to come, was like going on a picnic in a different universe.
Then it came to pass that she was literally flooded out. The river rose terribly high, twice in one season. Her household was decimated both times. And after recovering from the first intrusion, when the second deluge came barely a heartbeat later, she knew it was time to move.
For a while then, she relocated quite near me in the city of Fairfield Bay. But during this time we were both rather busy with other stuff in our respective lives – me, with navigating through a divorce and moving my brood to the abode where I and two of my five adult children continue to reside, and she with similar though different lifestyle evolutions.
We kept in-touch with email and when she announced plans to relocate to a remote chunk of land in Izard County where she would realize her dream to be a self-sufficient homesteader, I celebrated for and with her.
I visited her remote hide-way once, soon after she’d settled in to her bare-bones L-shaped polebarn with a dirt floor. Completely off-grid, water was pulled by the bucket from an ancient hand-dug well, the single working remains of a farmstead that had thrived here, an hundred years ago.
She planned to camp inside the polebarn, which she’d designed, had constructed by a local contractor and equipped with a wood stove, over her first winter while she figured out the parameters of her envisioned home. And now, on my homeward-bound travels, I would be getting a chance to see more than photos of what she had accomplished.
We had, however, determined that it would not be feasible to take Louise up the driveway to Suzy’s abode as it is passable only by vehicles with a lot of undercarriage clearance and quick maneuverability, like the 4-wheel drive pick-up truck she drives. Thus we chose to meet at the local Post Office, which closes at noon and seemed a good spot to park Louise while Suzy ferried me to her home for our visit.
Yes, Suzy’s mountain hideaway does now finally have ‘running water’ — a la the ‘gravity flow’ system she installed, which she fills from a large reserve cistern filled by rain.
This was a good plan, except for the overhead wires… which I almost (but not quite) learned more than I care to know about, the hard way.
That is, when I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that there were some electrical and phone lines high overhead, draped from the top of a tall pole at the front corner of the parking lot, near the street, running diagonally across the parkong lot to the back-rear corner of the building… but factually, I didn’t really give them much thought.
At least not until I got out of Louise, preparing to get in the pick-up with Suzy, and noticed that the low end of the lines were now resting on the upper-front fiberglass roof of my mobile abode.
Thus my next move was to calculate how I might-could backup to be clear of the lines without inadvertently taking them down…
Which I was, ultimately, able to do <smile>… but not without some very careful maneuvering.
And me chastising myself for being so stupid as to having gotten myself into such a fix to begin with – and at the same time congratulating myself for having recognized a potentially bad situation and having figured-out a ‘no harm done’ solution.
Ah-h-h-h… the challenges of RVing….!!!
The short ride back into Suzy’s dominion was every bit as rugged as promised. Had she intentionally constructed some sort of modern gauntlet to keep unwelcome visitors at bay, she could not have done better than Mother Nature’s protruding ‘wash board’ of tree-roots, gaping gullies, dry washes, and jagged terrain.
The ‘volunteer’ butternut squash vine sprouted of its own accord from ground enriched with Suzy’s vegetable-scrap compost.
But then, like a mirage in the wilderness, the gentle harmonious homestead she’s sculpted comes into view; unassuming; a simple modern metal-sheathed structure with a pleasant screen porch, surrounded by a patchwork of garden spots, blooming flowers, and running vines.
Step through the unpretentious doorway of this handsome polebarn and enter a custom tailored wonderland of clean lines, well organized structure and methodical fancy.
The walls and towering ceiling of the large L-shaped living area are precisely fitted tongue-and-groove, the masterwork of which one cannot truly tally without knowing that each board was sawed by hand and patiently installed over months of diligent physical pursuit, as was each stone-paver in the hand-laid floor, each plank in the raised woodfloor section areas, and the design of each piece of handcrafted furniture, such as her mini-4-poster bed.
Truly, a testament to what one person can accomplish, alone, with creativity, intelligence and diligence… while living on a fixed (frugal) income, with no electricity, no central heat, no air conditioning and no running water… A living work of art in perpetual motion, beautifully intertwined with the elements of Suzy’s nature.
We spoke of many things, as we always do, and noshed on bagels with cream cheese. We compared notes about how new chapters were opening in our respective lives, enticing and encouraging each of us to explore new horizons, and thus she was doing some deep-seated thinking about what she wanted to do ‘next’.
With many chapters of that conversation yet to come, Suzy delivered me back to Louise and I again headed south with plans to overnight in Mountain View as the last stop on my way home. But when I got there, things changed. And that is where my Maiden Voyage saga shall continue and conclude <smile>, next time we chat… Until then, (((hugs))) and happy traveling… ~Christine
Addendum: Subsequent to our visit, Suzy decided to sell her minimalist-mansion on 40 forested acres with natural spring-fed pond. If you’d like to know more, lemme know and I’ll get y’all in touch…!!!