In the early 80s, about two years after we moved back into town, we were riding through the countryside one day and came upon an old farmhouse with 10 acres for sale. Situated about 7 miles from town, it was an ideal location, so we stopped just out of curiosity.
Built on the old style southern farmhouse, the house had a wide front porch, two doors for entry, and was truly in need of updating. I remember getting out of our car, and walking up onto the front porch, then looking inside and seeing how rundown the interior was -- five big empty rooms, wallpapered, with plank floors covered in faded linoleum.
As I stood there peering into the dusty, vacant rooms a cold chill ran down my spine; there was something...eerie about the house. (Don't tell me you've never had an uncanny feeling about a place!) I backed away, and we walked around the house, looking over the ten acres. There was an old crumbling barn out back, a creek running the property line, a large pasture.
My husband loved the place instantly, but of course, we were in no financial position to even make an offer at that time. Later, we learned a young single guy had bought the place, and we'd occasionally drive by and see what improvements he'd made. He built a smaller barn near the house, demolished the rickety big barn, did some updating in the house -- but then sold the place within a few years.
Fast forward to our current search in 2003 when one day we saw an ad in a local free shopping paper. Five acres, a small barn, an older farmhouse, very affordable and only 7 miles from town. DH called about it, and guess what? It was the very same place we'd looked at in the 80s.
At first opportunity, we set up a meeting with the owner to see the property, who was selling it himself (no realtor). I remember the early Fall day when we drove up to the house, and got out to look around. We walked around the house, and then I headed for the front porch. I was fine until I looked in the windows, and then that same eerie feeling came over me; I could see there had been a good deal of updating, but the house was once again in desperate need of work to make it livable.
When DH joined me, he was enthusiastic about the property and soon the owner arrived to show us inside the house. While I felt that same prickly unease, the interior charmed me; it had odd quirks like a small galley-style kitchen, a skylight in the big bathroom, a fireplace in the master bedroom. Yet it was terribly rundown, and the owner said it had been a rental for several years and needed work to make it livable.
I had reservations, but DH loved it all, saw much potential and the price was so low we could pay cash and still have money for renovation if we did it ourselves.
However, when we expressed our interest, the owner said another person had already paid a small deposit on it. DH told him if the guy couldn't get a loan, we'd pay cash for it. No surprise, the owner called us within a week and said it was ours if we still wanted it.
I'd like to say I listened to the small, still voice inside that told me...there was something odd about the house. The day we took possession of the house, we went there after the closing and as we were walking through the empty rooms, I became violently nauseated, had to go out on the porch for fresh air before I fainted. DH was worried, but I didn't tell him I felt it was the house...rather, I just went back home and lay on my bed, trying to overcome the feeling.
As time went on, I convinced myself that hadn't happened, that I was being superstitious, acting crazy. And threw myself into the project, got carried away with the "find" we'd searched for so many years, not to mention DH had once wanted this place years and years ago.
For six months we worked ourselves like slaves; every day off, every holiday, we were there in the midst of renovation. I remember clearly the Christmas afternoon we left the family gathering to work there; I was on my belly, lying on the floor, sanding wide plank trim and wondering what the heck I was doing!
DH was a handyman, a good carpenter, and did all the updates himself. We only hired the more complex work out: central heat/air conditioning, natural gas lines run to the house, a new roof. But DH replaced all the old, rotten windows, did sheetrock work, took out old carpet, put down wood flooring, on and on.
By the next spring we moved in, and found a renter for our house in town. Life was good again, and it seemed all would be well. I began to explore the nearby areas on bike, riding along the country roads, discovering old cemeteries (even learning where the first owners of the house were buried), meeting neighbors, taking pictures, writing in my blog (2003-2006).
We were now planning for DH's retirement, doing the preliminary financial steps in him leaving the department. We had savings, his pension, and he would work a part-time security job. Best of all, he now had the ideal place for his horse-trailer business; we had a sign made, and were already getting regular customers.
DH moved his horses to the small barn, but had plans for a big barn on the drawing table. He thought stabling a few horses for folks would be another income, as well as enjoying the several he had.
The first quarter-horse colt born there, DH named him "Harley." He said the name was because "Harley" would be his motorcycle! All his buddies liked that story, and the colt (a gorgeous Palomino) became every one's pet project.
The place was never without a visitor, buddies or friends stopping by to talk with DH -- or get advice on horse care, help finding a horse trailer. At this point, DH started buying saddles and tack, and planned to build a small tack shop.
I had a big vegetable garden that first summer, and enjoyed it. Of course, several stray cats wandered in (or were dropped) and my cat population multiplied. The nearby creek was prolific with raccoons, and they wandered up to the house, where I created a special feeder with scrap food. DH began calling me "Ellie Mae Clampett."
Yes, that golden retirement was on the close horizon; only three more years, and DH would devote his time exclusively to the farm.
The first six months there, I experienced some odd phenomena. Once lying in bed, after DH was asleep, I felt the house shaking, and heard the glass kerosene lamps rattling on the fireplace mantle, no explanation for that. The TV once came back on after I'd shut it off and left the room. I tried my best to ignore these events, but I couldn't quite pretend nothing was wrong.
The first January we were there, disaster struck. DH had been changing a tire on a horse trailer, started having chest pains. He came in for our evening meal, wasn't eating and finally confessed he thought he was having a heart attack. I wanted to call 911, but he insisted I drive him to the ER, that it would be faster.
I did, and got there in record time. He had a heart attack on the ER table, and fortunately, a cardiologist administered a clot buster shot -- which greatly reduced the damage. However, the next day he was sent to a large city hospital, and had to have five stents.
Needless to say, we were scared, but his prognosis was good -- medication, diet, etc. We were optimistic he'd be fine, if he took good care of himself.
One night not too long after he returned, the former house owner's son and girlfriend stopped by to see us. As we were detailing DH's heart attack, I noticed a strange look pass between the guy and his girlfriend.
I asked, "What is that look?"
The guy said, "This house is hard on men, heart attacks."
The girl gave him a warning look, but I urged, "What do you mean?"
Turns out every man who'd lived in the house after the first owner had had a heart attack, including his father. None had died, but still... The first young guy who bought the house? He didn't have a heart attack, but turned the tractor over on himself in the creek, and very nearly drowned.
I think DH and myself were just...struck by the strange coincidence of it all. And though we tried to laugh it off, not think about it...truthfully, it was hard to completely ignore. Especially considering the peculiar events I'd already experienced.
And there was more to come...in the final year of DH's life.