Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: Spring training is upon us!

Rockin' and rollin'

Rockin' and rollin'
The author of Mark's Work

Coleus flowers

Coleus flowers
Why I grow flowers

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Air-borne bees

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast
Love is the greatest power.

Beauty abounds!

Beauty abounds!
Heinz tomatoes, used for catsup

If you've seen one butterfly, you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.

If you've seen one butterfly,  you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.
Painted Lady

Fall Jewels

Fall Jewels
Praying mantis, attending services on a zinnia...

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017
Something I have always wanted...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Friday, May 27, 2016

Quite a Ruckus

Quite a Ruckus
I never thought I would be in a position, where if someone handed me a check for ten thousand dollars, I would be inclined to say, “Gosh, thanks, but no thanks.” I mean, isn’t that everyone’s dream? To open the post office box and find that long, skinny envelope with only one piece of bond paper, folded around a phat check?

Many's the night we crashed on this upstairs balcony.
I am on a fixed income and have been thus for going on a dozen years, so it’s not as though I could not find something, upon which to spend the loot. The problem stems from being in an economically challenging income bracket, from which Annie and I derive certain benefits, based on that minimum income.

My veterans benefits leap immediately to mind. Having served in the military, and having applied for VA insurance when my school district insurance “ran out,” something I still struggle to grasp, I am now caught between a rock and a hard place. I can hear you now, "Sounds like a personal problem; take it to the chaplain..."

If I cash the check, thereby spiking 2016’s income upward, am I risking losing these benefits, at least for this calendar year? Act tung, Chucko, no bueno. On the other hand, if I don’t cash the check, what becomes of the loot?

Where did it come from? The money comes from my youngest brother Kevin, who is the lawyer in the family. I know, I know. Such the conflict. On the one hand I grew up with this dude in the same household; on the other he IS a lawyer.

It’s not that I distrust this profession, it’s more a wariness maybe, or skepticism. Once a lawyer has strapped on the gear, how in blazes is he or she supposed to differentiate between those who are family and those who are not? 

But enough of this prattling. My folks blazed the trail from the San Gabriel Valley in SoCal, to Blue Rock Ridge back in 1977, when my pops and oldest brother Eric, built the big house out of cinder block. It sits on twenty acres of land, nestled among three other twenty-acre lots that belong to various members of the family.
Slightly rearranged, the kitchen features
Robert's craftsmanship.

When my father passed in 1996, Mama stayed on in the big house for going on twenty years before spending the last couple of years of her life, closer to civilization. She reveled in her mountain chalet, wrote her life’s story in four lengthy installments, and enjoyed the solitude of her existence. 

When I originally questioned how healthy it was for her to remain isolated five miles up a dirt road, with no one to share the big house with, she just got this glazed look in her eyes, and smiled, broadly. I tried to belt-sand that smile off her face by pointing out all of the pitfalls of living by oneself.

“You don’t get it, Markie,” she said softly. “After fifty years of raising you kids, and living with Himself, I’m ready for some peace and quiet.”

I understood what she was saying; I have heard similar sentiments expressed by more than one of my siblings. It’s just that I cannot identify with the lifestyle. I abhor spending time by myself and I always have. I like to be around others and struggle when I’m not.

These past four years have found me spending more time by myself than I have since 1980, when I took a little flat in San Jose and lived alone while recovering from the breakup of my first marriage. I didn’t like it then, either, but with two cats for company and a good set of friends, I made it through and then met Annie, in January of 1981.

When we made the move up north, in May of 1982, thirty-five years ago come this Tuesday, the folks extended to us an open invitation to take advantage of their hospitality. This included hot showers because, of course, we had no bathroom.

Why have a bathroom if there is no running water? The last thing we would have wanted to see would have been a mirror, reflecting the fact that it was time to visit the big house…for showers. With the impending arrival of Casey, scheduled for September, Annie firmly established her credentials as a Mountain Mama.

Pauline, the original O’Neill Mountain Mama, knew a little something/something about expecting children. She also recognized that a home without the basic of amenities, could get tiresome real quick-like. After all, it was not until October of that year, that I was able to add-on a little eight-by-ten bathroom.
The bathroom at the big house had the shower
located in a separate room.
At that time I installed a water heater, a sink and a claw bathtub, acquired from neighbor Rex, who had most recently utilized it as a water trough for his horse. It just goes to prove that old adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." I ain’t proud and I knew how to use a scrub brush and a paintbrush, and I knew how to make use of scouring powder. Voila!

As for a toilet, well, that was a different story, what with the septic system and paperwork, et al, so we went with the old stand-by, an outhouse for three more years. But the big house had the real McCoy and Pauline was gracious in her welcome of Annie.

In fact Pauline made it well-known that it was her desire to extend this hospitality into perpetuity, so that after she had passed, the house would be made available to family members, who wanted to come up to Bell Springs for a visit. Her rationale was that the house had served as a family gathering spot for 35 years, and why could it not continue to serve as such?

The answer to that question was answered almost immediately after she relocated to Willits, in October of 2012. Also relocating, coincidentally just after Pauline made the move, was a legion of various varmint-like creatures, who could not help but take note that there was a vacancy in the neighborhood, and did anymouse need a new home? 

Oh, bats, rats, spiders too? Sure, come on in. There’s plenty of room for everyone. Before we could say, “There goes the neighborhood,” it went. The few times that Pauline made the “journey” from Willits back up to Bell Springs, were hard for her. There was just no amount of prep work, which could adequately prep her for the changes the house was undergoing, with there being no human presence in the middle of the critter kingdom.

Once the time had come when Pauline’s affairs needed to be settled, Kevin assumed the role for which he and Pauline had prepared. It was not as simple as Mama envisioned, because the house was in need of renovation and there simply was no money. I suspect that there is no surprise there, but the reality was that the plan she envisioned, lacked substance.

Having sat uninhabited for so long, exacerbated the situation, and it was deemed essential that something occur, or we ran the risk of having the house deteriorate to the point of no return. Maybe not so much the point of no return, as the point where diminishing returns become an issue.

Kevin consulted with brother/general contractor Matt, to investigate the possibility that Matt would be interested in taking on the project, should the bling be forthcoming. Matt thought the project was indeed viable and offered to make his services available, should the decision be made to renovate the home.

Long story short, primarily because I have very little clue as to how the machinations all fell into place, that being well out of my realm of both interest and expertise, Kevin purchased the house. He financed the renovation and put forth the proposition that the other eight siblings, to whom the house had been left, along with Kevin, accept equal shares of $10,000 apiece to relinquish title to the big house.

Done and done. None of us had any interest in interfering with either Mama’s wish that the house be preserved, or Kevin’s plan of action. As a result, I now have a check for my share and with it, the dilemma I referred to at the beginning of this account.
Mama did love her daffies...

I would say it’s a nice problem to have because our electrical system is in need of refurbishment, and ten grand would more than do the job, but then again, health insurance is kind of important too.

If you have insurance, you don’t necessarily have to make use of it, but the minute you cut the cord, you know you will fall apart. At the present moment that is not an appealing thought. Only one of us can fall apart at a time, and right now Annie is still gathering up the pieces from her own health puzzle, so I can’t afford to have to make use of health insurance.

It’s kind of a back-door logic, but sometimes you just have to avoid the front porch light, so you go around to the rear porch screen door, and slip through without the door squeaking. Needless to say, ten grand can raise quite a ruckus with my scene, so I am being cautious.

I just know that some brave soul out there will rise to the occasion and offer to take my financial burden upon his own shoulders, and for that I can only be most grateful. Unfortunately, it is not my nature to shift my responsibilities onto others, so I will say in advance that you will have to put your generous natures aside, and let me work this out on my own.

If you need to get in touch with me, I suggest that you do so within the next week, before our plane takes off for the Mediterranean. After all, I think it only normal, that for decisions of such magnitude, an appropriate venue be provided.

Bon Voyage! 

P. S: I’ll keep an itemized account of our decision-making process, and post it upon our return. Who knows? These problems have a way of working themselves out. Based on my research in the Travel! section of google, I calculate it may take about a month.


  1. Wait! What? Are you really going away? I think not but it sounds like it!
    I am glad that Kevin took the initiative (and has the bucks) to buy us out. It seems like a much more organized way to make sure that the house stays in good condition.
    I have not cashed the check yet either. Lots of ambivalence about having that cash....

  2. Going away? You mean I'm still here? Dang... Naw, I ain't goin' nowhere... I agree with the whole process...