Blog: R.E. Tales
(Hey, not every place is pretty...)
If you drive along the Jordanville Rd, you will no doubt notice a beautiful red and white barn that sits by the roadside. Part of the bottom floor is made from beautifully laid stone and the rest is carefully done, but modern and neatly kept. It is an eye-catcher. If you slow down to look at it, you may see that there is a red pipe gate that is closed and locked at the driveway. No one around here gates their drives. Well, almost no one. I do know of another and find it plain weird. But look deeper here and you’ll see something else. There’s a house, hidden by low-hanging trees and bushes. It appears to be an old house, not nearly as well-kept as the barn or the grounds, but it’s hard to tell, it is so obscured by the greenery. You wonder if it is ever lived in.
As you may have guessed, there is a story coming. We had it listed for sale once, listed by John, not me. As a neighbor, John has known the owners for decades. It was owned by a elderly German couple, Hans and Murtha. Hans had served in WWII, on the other side.The stories he could tell, John tells me. I never understood why they emigrated to the US right after the war, but they did. You would think they would not be welcomed. Maybe they weren’t – that might be an explanation for the rest of the story.
After they moved in, they lost the barn to fire, not of suspicious origins: not to worry – we’re not like that up here. Being a builder, he undertook to rebuild it. That explains the partial stone first floor. To support themselves during this time, Hans went to New York City and took construction jobs on bridges and things like that. In fact, he made something of a career of this. He never did milk cows here like he had planned. But all the stuff to milk was there, he proudly pointed out. Never mind that the barn, while like new, was now functionally obsolete for that. That’s a fact he could not see. But he always cut the hay, which is why the farm was for sale. He was getting too old to do the work any longer and could not trust a tenant to do it correctly.
Which is exactly the point. That’s explains the gate. I have never seen such paranoids as Hans and Murtha. They would have cashed in and sold years ago but could not bring themselves to trust anyone. Finally, they decided they could trust John, they had to trust someone to help them sell it. When anyone from the company came with a customer, John had to be there. You never know, I might attack them with a machete or something. John was nice about that and hung around every time I came up. Pretty quick, I found someone who might really want it, a real nice guy from Connecticut who was serious about finding a place, had the money, and wanted to raise beef. The place was perfect for him. The appointment had to be set up through John and he was there when everybody arrived, serving as sort of a body guard or something for Hans and Murtha.
Hans showed us everything proudly. Then we went in the house and Murtha took over. It was not as bad inside as you might think from the outside. Clean, plain and shiny. They loved glossy paint, odd colors, colors just a bit darker and harder than others might be comfortable with. The thing that struck me about the house more than that was the complete absence of a personal touch. There was nothing on the walls, nothing, no photos, no pictures, no calendars. And nothing personal anywhere else either.
I learned more about them from John. It seems they hated each other and stuck together because neither trusted the other one enough to allow them a chance to get the upper hand. That coincided with my observations. They did not communicate between themselves any time I was there. When we showed the buildings, one would always be nearby, in the room or hovering around if we were outside while the other was talking about it – but never closer than the far wall. As far away as possible, but close enough to monitor what was being told to us.
They had a son who lived in Baltimore who had urged them for years to sell and come live with him, but they were not about to take his advice. Nor would they take ours. My man from Connecticut wanted to buy the farm and made a full or nearly full – memory fades – price cash offer (far more than I ever expected to get) but they weren’t sure if they should take it. Suppose it was worth more? And they definitely did not like the idea that this guy wasn’t going to milk cows here. And they were not sure if these were the kind of people they wanted owning their property either. My Connecticut man was no fool and saw that he was spinning his tires with these folks and went off to buy something else from someone who would sell. We lost him and lost the sale. That was not the only one this happened to. Some Amish wanted to buy it, and they were not the right people either, according to Hans and Murtha.
Finally, we gave up in disgust, seeing that a pissed-off customer could bring about a lawsuit. You can’t discriminate against folks just because you don’t think they are “right” for your place. That doesn’t fly. The last I heard was that Hans finally died and Murtha is living there peacefully by herself. If you go up to the house, she will hide in an inner room. Even though the lights might be blazing, you will get no response when you knock on the door. The blinds are always drawn and the doors and windows are always shut and locked, habits from her days with Hans. She doesn’t drive. I have no idea how she gets food. She must trust someone enough to allow them to take her to the store. I have no idea who that would be. Or maybe the son from Baltimore comes up every few month and buys hundreds of dollars worth of food for her at a time. Anyhow, now she doesn’t have to live in fear that Hans is going to cheat her. That farm isn’t for sale either. Don’t bother asking. And the hay has not been cut either.
Some are merely amusing, some can be an immense help. All are interesting.
After 40 years, I've learned a lot, & acquired unforgettable experiences. Follow these long enough and you'll eventually get the whole book. (Names probably changed, for obvious reasons.)