Blog: R.E. Tales
(Hey, they all can't be pretty...)
Mostly, I sell a place and move on: it’s my goal, to sell each place – once. But sometimes I get an encore, that’s life. Let me tell about one.
In the early eighties, when I learned that Don wanted to sell, I went right up to list the property. It proved to be a very unusual barn, and Don an unusual farmer. First, let me tell you about the barn: picture a gable-roofed bank barn, 200’ long, but on this one, the bank was not along the side as usual, but was at one end. And the drive up the bank to the loft did not go to the floor as usual, but to the third story, where it led to an elevated drive. Standing on that wooden drive, there was a lot of air space between you and the loft floor below. This drive extended 2/3’s the length of the barn, then abruptly ended. A the very end was a metal-covered slide sloping downwards. It had no sides. Don would drive his way wagons to the slide, toss the bales on, and they would slowly make their way downwards, dropping off left and right at random. Cool. No electric needed, nothing to go wrong. And hard to control where each bale went. The other 2/3’s of the barn loft was filled by tossing bales off left or right, wherever he wanted them to end up. Simple. Gravity is your friend. and it never tires.
This barn had 2 wooden square silos at the bank end, one on each side of the drive. When chopping silage, he would bring the wagon in and unload the chopped feed directly into the top of one of the silos. Gravity still working for him, he needed no blower or second tractor. The way he worked it was both simple and ingenious. He had a lawn mower with a front blade and when the silo was filling, someone was below on the mower, pushing silage around to the corners and also packing it at the same time. When the silo was full, they simply drove the lawnmower out onto that high drive and then around the hill to the stable where it would then drive into the next silo and repeat the process. When time came to unload the silo, things were reversed: the lawnmower was used again to push the feed out the chute down to the stable below. No electricity needed at any time.
Which was good: Don was, in a few ways, an Amish wannabe. He only had one tractor, a very old McCormick that he used only on the spreader. Everything else was done by hand and by horses. On his previous farm, everything had been modern and he nearly went out of business paying for all the machinery. He claimed this was much better and the only reason he was selling was to buy a cranberry farm. He’d grown up in the cranberry industry of Massachusetts and wanted to return there.
So I started showing it. In the distance was an old cemetery. Now, it is not uncommon to find a cemetery on a farm; they are dotted around here and there and virtually none of them have seen an interment on the last 100 years. Still, if you wished to be buried on your own land, it would still be legal, if there was a cemetery already there. Most folks kind of like this idea and I was in the habit or pointing it out – until one lady asked to be taken away, right then. She did not want to get any closer to the cemetery – and it was several hundred yards from the road. She definitely did not want to see the farm if there was a cemetery near it, let alone on it.. Later, when I called Don to explain why we did not show up as scheduled, that one took some explaining.
Eventually, we found a good buyer and entered into a contract. Don immediately took time off to find his cranberry farm. A week later, he called me to tell me he was going to have to withdraw from the contract (he had a contingency to find a place to buy). The only cranberry farms he was able to find for sale had diseases in the cranberries. So, his farm went off the market.
Over time, I kept track of it. The next thing he did was to buy a new tractor, a big one. Then there was another, and modern machinery to go with them. He’d gone full cycle, back to conventional farming, no more horses. The house burned down and was replaced by a nicer, though smaller one. Don went on. His father built his own home next door and, in the garage, Don started his own creamery. He was now a milk handler as well as a producer, selling his milk retail instead of wholesale. But he wasn’t as smart as he should have been. Payments on the new machinery and the milk processing equipment needed to be made, so Don sold some cows to make the payment. Then later, he did it again, and again. Pretty soon, his creditors were caught up, but he had no milk to process. He had buyers for it, but no milk products to sell them and he went belly up.
The bank called me in and I relisted it. Soon enough, we found a buyer, a cabby who earned a 6 figure salary. He was a college grad who found he could make more money driving. His plan was to drive 3 consecutive 12 hours days, sleep at his aunt’s, and then spend the next 4 days on the farm. Not bad.
One of the things I’d always found neat about this farm was that it had a super spring. Located somewhere way back in the woods, it ran by gravity into the barn where it split, part running to the stable, and another line running out over the yard, 10-20’ above the ground, where it fell into a tub and then went to the home, the remainder forming a small stream.. No electric was used anywhere along the line. The cabby hated to see all this overflow water wasted and decided to do something about it. What he succeeded in doing was to screw up his water supply. He lost the siphon to the spring and could never get it back. After that, he had to dig a new line and put in an electric pump. The new line was thousands of yards long, not cheap, but nothing ever ran out into the air again. After this, there was nothing extra left that could run out in the air.
The cabby’s best friend from college bought the father’s home. He’d formed a good relationship with me beforehand and when it came up for foreclosure, he gave me a limited Power of Attorney to buy it for him. At the auction, everyone thought it was me buying the home and they knew I didn’t have that kind of money. It caused a bit of a stir, which I’d enjoyed watching. The two fiends now lived side by side and were happy for a few months. Then, the cabby died, totally unexpected. The friend, now executor of the estate, again placed it in my hands.
Soon enough I found a single mother with 2 nice kids, home schooled. The idea was to have a back-to-the-farm kind of place, a good place for them to grow up. She’d had enough cash from the divorce to buy the farm and not have to work. But there wasn’t much left over. In due time, she meet someone, and eventually they married. But the new husband didn’t really want a farm and it was a very long commute for him.
So I got called in again. This time I found a buyer from Florida who was tired of the rat race down there and longed for colder weather. His kids had never seen snow and he was excited that he could show it to them. At the closing, much of the conversation was about just that. We closed in the Fall and he was happy as a clam when I went to visit him, just waiting for that snow to appear.
In April he called me and said local folks told him that the last winter was an unusually mild one. What did I think? That was right, I said, apologetically, we got very little snow and not that much cold weather either. Then he surprised me by boldly stating that he never ever wanted to see a winter like that one again. He was going back to Florida and would be placing the farm on the market – with someone else, as if I were to blame for the weather and his interpretation of it. Gee, if it had been a cold snowy winter, what might he have done to me?
Anyway, the cycle was broken and now someone else has the place. They have since torn down the barn. It was in decent repair, not great, but not nearly ready to fall down either. I think the new owners didn’t need it and wanted it of the tax rolls. I rarely go by, too many memories, and too far off the beaten path. Still it’s a neat place, only not as neat as when the barn was there.
Some are merely amusing. some can help you immensely. 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.)