The Story of Old House Chic Part 1
I noticed the signs one day while driving to work. It was a land developers sign that was on each of five historic old home properties. Each house was mostly hidden from sight from over grown bushes and trees and if you didn’t know they were there, the old homes could be, and were, easily missed.
I was fixing up my own old home and wanted to use antique elements like door knobs, old vent grates and hardwood flooring to bring the old home charm back. My budget was tight and architectural salvage was becoming popular. (Read: expensive) I wrote the land developers phone number down and picked up the phone and set it back down. I really hate being told no. I mean really. I came up with a plan of attack and picked up the phone.
Here’s how the phone call went:
…and remember this is one Texan (from the Dallas/Fort Worth area) speaking to another (from Houston). Don’t worry, I’ve translated for all y’all…
Ring, ring, ring, ring…
“(I can’t remember the name) L-yand Deevelupers and Asso-cee-ettes. Ha mah ah hep yew?” Translation (lets just go with the last part): How may I help you?
“Yes ma’am. My name is Bernadette Rankin and I live in Arlington, Texas. May I speak with Mr. (I can’t remember his name)?”
“Can ah ta-ell hem whaat this een reegah-reds ta?” Translation: Can I tell him what this is in regards to…and hurry up my nails are drying, I’m not done paintin’ em and I’m already bored.
“Well…” This was the sticking point. I felt like I had one chance to convince the land developer that it was a very good idea, actually the best idea he ever had, to allow me to rummage through his company’s five condemned historic houses with the promise that I wouldn’t sue the pants off the entire company in the off chance that I might fall off a roof. What are the odds?!
“Yes ma’am, I wanted to speak with him about the five old houses that will be demolished in Arlington.”
“Oh ohkaay, sugah. Hold ohn fa justa sec and lemme see if he’s aa-vail-ble.” Translation: Seriously?
I held on…and held on and…yeah, it was crazy determination that had me holding on for as long as I did.
“Yes, this is (insert good old boy name here) with (insert another good old boy business name here) how mah ah hep yew?” Translation: I need to get to my game of golf. How may I help you?
“Yessir. (good start…let him know that I, too, come from the south and am not an “intruder” which is anyone not Texan, born and bred.) I wanted to ask you about the five old homes that are sitting on the land represented by your company.”
“Miss, ah’m waitin’ on what exactly yer gone ask about ’em…bah-cause ah cant even guess wha this gone be about.” Translation: what is a little lady like you calling about a big old thing like land development?”
Hmmm. I was sensing that the use of “little lady” might just mean stupid female in his mind. I swear I really did my best in stomping down on my use of sarcasm. “Well, I noticed that there are homeless people coming and going from your land and I did a little checking around and saw that the City of Arlington has cited…that means ticketed…your property for being a nuisance…that means-“
Oops. The good old boy was gone and here was the person I really needed to deal with: “What do you mean the property was cited?”
“There’s a notice on the door of one of the homes and-“
“How do you know this, Miss?”
Crud. How to explain me trespassing on his property…”Because I was admiring the architecture (from the front lawn) and thought I would pass along that it looks like there’s a homeless population that’s been on your properties. You, know, just doing you a little favor in letting you know.”
“…well, ah thank yew for that kindness-“
“Yes, sir, I drive by the houses everyday and if you would like, I could keep you up to date on what is going on if you would give me permission to walk around on the property to keep an eye on everything.”
“Well, that sounds like a mighty fine idea.”
“Why, thank you! Oh, and since the houses are going to be demolished, would you mind if I collected a door knob or two, while I’m checking on the houses, to use in my own old home?”
“Oh. Well, I imagine it’s real dirty and all and you just don’t know what’s around there.”
“I’ll be real careful, Sir. I’ll even take my Dad.” My poor Dad was just thrown into the deal but I knew he wouldn’t mind taking one for the team…maybe.
“Well, if you can keep me up to date on what’s going on so that I don’t have to deal with a ci-ta-shun, then we have got ourselves a deal. You can take whatever you want from the homes. That sounds fine to me.”
“Yes ma’am. You got yerself a month and you should see all the stuff that was left behind. There’s a library, still stocked full of books. A cedar lined closet, hardwood flooring, stained glass windows… No electricity or water. Oh and a fox! Hotter’n hell, too, I imagine, since it’s July. Well, I gotta go. Take care!”
Is this what crazy determination gets you? A…fox? Wait, did he say a library full of books? Stained glass windows?! ONE MONTH?!
Stick around and tell me how your sort of crazy determination opened all kinds of doors for you…can’t wait to hear your stories!