A Late Valentine’s Day Musing

I’m a guy. To say I’m a clueless guy would be redundant. Valentine’s Day is winding down at The Four-Acre Wood. The only roses present are the Don Juan climbing roses outside, trying to weather the winter. At this point we are all trying to survive the frigid temperatures. Soup is always in order in February. A quick pantry inventory directed me try potato soup: Yukon Gold potatoes, celery, sweet onion, white queso, bacon, etc. and we were in business 

Decades ago, I married my high school sweetheart and never looked back. Ups and downs, of course. Bumbling … to this day. But never regrets. 

Embers burn a long time, they may not be flashy, but the heat is still there, in our case, decade after decade. It’s been a tough few weeks for my high school sweetheart dealing with elder parent issues. I can make a decent soup, solving other problems, not so much.

Note to self; next year make soup but buy some fresh roses too.

Of Septic Tanks, Handshakes, and the Backbone of America.


The young man from the septic tank repair company hopped out of his truck, flashed a big grin, then thrust his hand toward me,  “Hi, I’m Alex,” he said. I grabbed his hand with all the enthusiasm I could muster.

Prior to purchasing the Four-Acre Wood, we never gave a thought to starting the dishwasher, flushing the toilet, or turning on a faucet. That effluence ran down pipes, tubes, whatever, to parts unknown, our only reminder was the monthly bill received from the  sewer district. Shipwreck however (being slightly removed from civilization) is on a septic tank system.

During the process of purchasing a new home a number of inspections were initiated. One of those was an inspection of the septic tank system. Our real estate agent recommended a local company who only did inspections and analysis, they did no repairs, and had no other services to sell. Made sense to us so we hired them. I followed the gentleman around from the inspection company as he pointed out the two tanks of our septic system, the lift pump, the drain field and offered philosophical discussions about anaerobic bacteria.  I nodded dutifully as if I understood what he was talking about. Susan, having no interest in anaerobic bacteria remained inside the house. The last stop was inside the basement where he pointed out a small box mounted on the wall. “This is the alarm system that will go off if the lift pump fails,” This I understood, I know when alarm systems go off.

Of course it wasn’t long before that alarm went off.

I called the number on the sticker attached to the front of the box. The lady on the  other end of the line was polite and informed me they would have someone out the same day. They were true to their word and Alex rolled in just shortly after lunch.  That’s when he flashed a smile and offered his hand.

It’s amazing the thoughts that can run through your mind in a fraction of a second. During that nanosecond, I thought, “It’s after twelve, this is not his first service call of the day. He works on septic tanks, I don’t know where that hand has been.” Then I thought, “I can always wash my hands, I am not going to refuse a hand offered in friendship.”

This Covid pandemic has warped us. We are constantly reminded to stay 6 feet apart from each other, wear masks and God forbid, don’t touch someone else. We were not designed to live like that. I took Alex’s hand with all the enthusiasm I could muster.

He grabbed his shovel and got to work, digging through the sod to open all the access points of the system. It didn’t take him long to diagnose the problem. The pump was still working, but some of the PVC pipe had become disconnected. Unfortunately he didn’t have a piece of pipe long enough to make the repair. He put in a call to his office and waited by his truck for it to be delivered. The sun was at it’s zenith, I suggested he wait on our front porch swing in the shade, until the pipe arrived. He politely declined, saying he had a more jobs to get done that day and was afraid if he sat in the shade, he might not want to get up again. I made another suggestion, that I get him something cold to drink. He took me up on that.

I waited with him by his truck. He commented on our view and remarked that was the only thing he missed from his previous job as a roofer. “It got hot,” he said, “But sometimes you had the best views on top of those roofs.”

We chatted about things, inconsequential things for the most part, we didn’t discuss politics or the meaning of life, just two guys separated by forty years, standing by a pickup with time to kill.  He asked what I did prior to retirement. I asked how long he had been with this company. He told me that he really liked his job, but he had to drive 40 minutes to get to the office. We talked about high mileage vehicles. He told me he was afraid the timing chain was going out on his truck. We discussed the merits of sinking money into a high mileage truck or just driving it over a cliff.

The replacement piece of PVC pipe arrived and Alex got to work. I retreated to the air conditioned comfort of the house. It wasn’t long before there was a gentle knock on the door. Alex presented me with a bill that was less than expected. I wrote out a check, thanked him for his work, and once again shook his hand.

Alex backed out of our driveway. I said a little prayer that his timing chain would hold out, then I said a little prayer for our country. We don’t need more career politicians, social media influencers, professional athletics, or actors with political opinions to share. We need more Alex’s. Men and women who are willing to put their shoulder to a task and see it done. Men and women who take pride in an honest days labor, who go home tired, but with the peace-of-mind that they have earned it, whether it’s septic tank repair, roofing, or fixing a faulty timing chain.

I watched as Alex drove through the gates of our little subdivision. He didn’t see me, but I paused to give him a brief salute.

Tim, Susan, and Mimsy

Introducing the Four-Acre Wood and “Shipwreck”

Ah, where to begin? 2020 was an eventful year for all of us, (that alone might win the Captain Obvious prize for the classic understatement.) For Susan and I, it meant; selling our beloved 1890 house of 27 years, moving in with Susan’s 84-year-old mother for 6 months until we figured out that she was more independent than we thought, and discovering that we all needed our own space, then searching for a house of our own a month before I retired. The hunt began. While Susan’s mother was doing okay on her own, she’s not going to get any younger and we didn’t want to move too far away. In a real estate market gone crazy with bidding wars, we came across a house that had been on the market for 3 years. The previous owner had an inflated idea of its worth, and so it sat, and sat, and sat until he gradually dropped the price, year after year until we came along, and after a few offers later the house was ours.

The last two homes we owned were built-in 1890. We are old house people, it’s in our blood (and under our fingernails and probably in our lungs) but there aren’t many historic homes in Jefferson County, Missouri, but this house checked off a few boxes. Though only 20 years old, the plans were from North Carolina architect William Poole whose designs are rooted in tradition and southern heritage. The brickwork came from salvaged 100+ year old home demolitions in St. Louis. The full-width front porch mirrored our last two houses, pulled on some heartstrings, and was a major selling point.

Anyone who has purchased a house knows that acquiring homeowners insurance is part of the deal. We submitted bids to several different companies. The little subdivision we are in (a whopping nine houses) is called “Shipwatch,” based on the fact that most houses including ours have views of the Mississippi River. I may have mumbled, or the insurance agent on the other end misunderstood me, but the quote came back with a price to insure “Shipwreck” and the name stuck.

So welcome to Shipwreck!

Shipwreck sits on four acres which is about 3.5 acres more than we wanted, fortunately, most of it is wooded, hence the name for this blog, The Four-Acre Wood, (with a nod to Winnie the Pooh).

As mentioned in the “About Us” page … we invite you to join us on this journey, this chapter turning of; retirement, remodeling, resale shops, cooking, gardening, decorating, family, fashion, dogs (see I didn’t forget about Mimsy), and life musings … not because we have any great wisdom or expertise in any of those areas, but because life is best shared. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us that we are not designed to live in solitude.

Tim, Susan, and Mimsy