Friday, June 27, 2014

A Trophy Buck

The ERJ family bought our house and X acres about 20 years ago. 

The family who owned it had fallen on hard times.  It had been the mother's dream property.   She had grown up dreaming of living on this property.

They were "horse" people and this had been a "horse" farm.  They finally scraped up enough for the down payment.  They boarded other people's horses to boost their liquidity. 

They also sold super-duper horse supplements out of the pole barn.  The difference between horse feed and cow feed is the picture on the bag and the price tag.  Putting a picture of a horse on the bag doubles the price.

Things were looking up.

And then....

They allowed a few friends to run a tab.  They figured that they had collateral as long as they had the horses.  The balance added up quickly at $150 a month and nine stalls. 

The 4th of July, 1990 parade was their undoing.  Their friends took their horses to the parade in trailers.  The horses (collateral) did not come back.

The dad lost his job due to a downturn in the demand for drop forgings.

The two daughters were married and they had 3 babies within a few months of each other.  The babies were 6 months old.

Mom, Dad, 2 daughters, 2 sons-in-law and three grandkids lived in the house.  The end did not come quickly.  They struggled and scrimped and stretched.  They were reduced to burning ceiling tiles for heat that last winter.  They really were being pushed to the brink.

Our real estate agent told us their bottom-line price on the down-low.  Their agent was POed at them.  They had an offer but they turned it down.  The potential buyer had trash-talked the house and they would let it go to Sheriff's auction before they be humiliated.

We knew what they owed on the mortgage.  We knew when the bank was going to start "proceedings".  We also knew that their dreams had constricted to where their home run scenario was to cover the balance on the mortgage and walk away with enough cash to build a pole barn on the family member's property (one school district to the north) where they were going to regroup.

We offered them $5500 more than they owed the bank.  It was a good deal for us.  It was a solid, honest good deal for them. 

They accepted.

Fast forward 20 years

A young man showed up at our door yesterday.  He was one of the three grandkids.

He had not visited the place in the last 20 some years.  We did all of the normal "catching up" that people do when they have not seen each other for a while.

He had just mustered out of the Navy.  He had seen the world, or at least the east coast of the US. He had a kayak on top of his vehicle.

The  big hip-roof barn he had grown up hearing about had been flattened by a tornado in 2001.

His grandfather still had the deer mount of the buck he had shot on the property back when the family fortunes were at their apogee.  The trophy lived in a place of honor above the fireplace when we toured the place.

It was a six point that most people would not have paid to mount.   But it is the story that makes the trophy, not the measurements.  This one looked like it was going to get away.  It was heading toward Anus Rectum's property where they would not be able "bring it to bag" when the buck had the good grace to become tangled up in the barbed wire perimeter fence and expire. 

It is a rare, precious thing to be able to harvest a buck, one of the most wary and elusive of trophies, from one's own property.  All that being said, I would not have instructed the taxidermist to mount it with the tongue hanging out of the side of the mouth.

This young man's grandfather and father were both from Arkansas, so his Grandfather was Pa-pow.  Interesting regional variation.

His grandmother had died about a decade back.  Pa-pow had remarried but she was not his grandmother.

I offered to walk the property with him but he really had no interest.  "Back in the day" that had all been pasture.  His family history had been in the barns and in the stories.

And in a deer mount.


This man appeared to be a man of substance. The future is his. The astute reader will notice that I did not qualify "man" with the word "young".

The family's fortune bodes well if all of the grandkids are his match.  It is, of course, folly to judge based on 15 minutes of interaction.  But this man seemed to have his boots firmly planted in the earth and to be living in the here-and-now.

I wish him, and all his kin, the best.


  1. Sometimes there ARE surprises in the family lines... Glad you got the chance to meet him!

  2. I think having a few more years under his belt is in his favor. His mother and aunt seemed to be quite young.

    They did get their pole barn. I had a conversation with the gentleman who installed the cupboards/cabinets. He was a little bit miffed. They actually put stuff (canned dog food) in them and they came off the wall.

    It made me happy to hear that they ended up with something tangible out of the deal. Few people handle windfalls well. One data point I have involves legal settlements. Only one person in twenty will still have a significant portion of the settlement two years later.

    One problem with a budget that is too tightly strung is that it cannot absorb shocks. It is like a boat with little freeboard. It does not take much of a wave to swamp the boat. I think that was the root cause of their financial difficulties.

    The kid did not look like a high roller. He was not dressed fancy. His vehicle was probably eight years old.

    I wish him well.