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My father-in-law was a retired contractor who really knew his business,  He, Dewey, and my mother-in-law-, Bernice, lived some sixty miles away and they volunteered to supervise the remodeling and addition to the house.  When I protested that it would be too far for them to commutes, they informed me that they would move in with us until the job was finished.  They were great people.  But, I don’t think that any of us realized at the time how hair-raising the whole business would be, nor how long it would take.

The kitchen remodeling was one of the first things that we tackled.  My husband and I went to a reputable cabinet shop with our plans and went over them with the owner.  We decided on a Birdseye maple wood and when the cabinets were finished he would call us.  Then we could simply tear out the old cabinets and replace them with the new ones immediately.  This sounded quite simple to me, and couldn’t inconvenience us too much in the process.

Well, on the day that the workmen were to start on the kitchen, I came home from work, found a canvas covering the doorway into the kitchen.  Now from my previous experience with canvas, I was naturally leery.  I whisked back the canvas and stepped down to the kitchen just as a warning scream hit me.  When I say that I went down into the kitchen, that is exactly what I did.  As I raised up, I looked up in wonderment, not quite believing what I saw.  The ceiling was gone as were the inside walls, the windows had all vanished, and naturally the floor had been taken out to complete the picture.  My sprained ankle testified to the latter.  I had expected the cupboards to be missing until they were easily replaced, but all this?  It was Unbelievable.

In all fairness, to everyone concerned, we had discussed how advantageous it would be to have more aesthetically placed windows in the kitchen and if we were to change the windows, we might as well have them all bigger than the previous ones.  The walls had to be torn out to replace the antiquated wiring that would be totally inadequate for our modern kitchen.  And the floor?  Well it had to be checked for termites, was found to be weak anyway, so naturally it came out too.


In the 1950’s my folks loved their new property on Maple Avenue but the house needed improvements. Mom, (Dorothy) shares her perspective:


From the first day’s looking at the house, we knew that we would put on an addition when the funds were available.  Obtaining the funds was something else, so we had plenty of time to draw up plans, refine them, reject them, and start all over again.  By then we realized that a remodeling job on the existing house was also in order to really have the dream house that we wanted.  This, of course, would take an additional amount of money, but when you don’t have any money, what’s an additional sum on paper?  The kitchen especially needed redoing, to modernize it.

When the day finally arrived for us to seek Credit Union funds to add on to out savings, our dream house would be in its first stages.

Let me now state emphatically to any reader who is even vaguely thinking of starting a similar venture…DON’T!  Or if you are too stubborn to take this advice, at least take a world tour until the mess is finished.  Can’t afford that?  Well, at least move into a motel and eat all of your meals out while the remodeling is going on.  If that would cost more than you can swing, wait until much longer, until you can save for that also.  Believe me, it’s worth it.  Let me explain.

We eventually had the shell of our new addition up, including the roof, outside walls, floor, fireplaces in master bedroom and new living room.  That went smoothly.  No problem that we couldn’t smile our way through.  Then the troubles started.

My father-in-law was a retired contractor who really knew his business,  He, Dewey, and my mother-in-law, Bernice, lived some sixty miles away and they volunteered to supervise the remodeling and addition to the house.  When I protested that it would be too far for them to commutes, they informed me that they would move in with us until the job was finished.  They were great people.  But, I don’t think that any of us realized at the time how hair-raising the whole business would be, nor how long it would take.

A swimming pool.

Image via WikipediaDorothy and Ted were settled in their "dream house". But some one - time unexpected funds become available. How will they use the found money?

Dorothy and Ted were settled in their “dream house”.  But some one – time unexpected funds become available.  How will they use the found money?


“One year we found that we would receive a large amount of federal tax refund, due to the selling of a house in town for a loss.  We had to decide what we were going to do with all that money.  We desperately needed the new addition to the house.  Ted and I were sleeping on the hide-a-bed couch in the living room.  We discussed all of the things on which we could spend the money.  All sorts of possibilities popped into our heads.  Being practical and organized people, we listed all of the things that the money could be used for.  And being so practical and organized, we narrowed the selection down to two distinct possibilities.  Number one, of course, remained the addition to the house.  Number two, was the building of a nice swimming pool.  We finally reached the inevitable conclusion that we could always find enough money to add on to the house, but we wouldn’t always find money for the building of a swimming pool.  And, of course, we would always be able to enjoy the pool, from the day of completion, on.  How is that for being practical, systematic, and organized?

We built a lovely swimming pool that was slightly elevated for natural flow into the orchard for irrigation, thus avoiding the high property tax that accompanies swimming pools.  It was called a reservoir, but it still was a lovely swimming pool with nice decking around it and a patio built of redwood strips and exposed aggregate between these strips.  Swimming daily from March through October in Central California made this a truly great investment, from a standpoint of health and leisure time activities. A beautiful huge Cottonwood tree gave shade on some section of the patio all day long.  This tree was a nuisance in that it constantly dropped leaves in the pool, but the grandeur of that beautifully shaped old tree gave me a sense of permanence, my touch with immortality, and gave shade to boot.”

“My smile soon vanished as the couple at the door introduced themselves as the new pastor and his wife from our church, coming to call.  I could easily have dropped dead with no regrets, but that would have been the easy way out. I graciously bade them enter, shoved over some clothes and a drawer for them to sit down, offered them some coffee, forgetting that I had no electricity to make any.  I ended up serving them orange juice and cake, which probably had gone stale.  (This had been my day to bake).  The two of them sat primly, chatting pleasantly, and were the two most tactful people that I had ever met in my life.  They acted as though every home was arranged as mine was that day.  Neither blinked an eye or showed the mildest concern at the havoc.  I had always been taught that the first step in being a good homemaker was to never apologize for the state of the home or the food, or any of the many things that could go wrong.  I was temped to do some explaining, I’ll admit, until the moment passed that it might have done some good.

For, at that dramatic moment, the half-chick awoke from his nap in the bedroom and came out into the living room, stretching and yawning, as only he could do.  He went promptly to the front door to go out and “do his duty”.  By then it was too late to have explained anything to this dear old diplomatic couple.  I watched for some raised eyebrow, open mouth, gulps and so on, but neither gave any kind of reaction to the half-chick coming out of the bedroom, going to the front door to go outside.  There wasn’t even a pause in the conversation.

After a suitable time, they arose with a “thank you” and “we’ll see you in church” preliminaries.  They left and I sat down and wept.  I was still weeping when my husband came home.  He was astonished and asked me what happened.  When I gestured with my sweeping arm at the mess and told him who had come to call, he asked me why I didn’t explain about the fireplace, the electricity going off, etc.  Tearfully I said that I did think about it until half-chick walked in from his nap, and then nothing I said would have made any difference.”

Ted begins his remodeling of the house and Dorothy finds the electrical power out…

“One day, after an unusually strenuously work day, I drove home to find the house in a turmoil.  Ted had decided to erect a fireplace on an outside wall of the living room.  That sounds simple enough, but let me give you a picture of what I encountered as I walked through the living room that evening.  Ted had ripped out the entire outside wall of the house and had nailed up a huge piece of canvas over the opening.  It was the middle of winter but who would want a fireplace in the middle of summer?  That was Ted’s reasoning, faulty as it was.  A good portion of the floor was gone along with the wall, and Ted explained that he had to put a strong foundation in to hold up the fireplace.  OK…then that was the reason for having the wheelbarrow full of cement in the middle of the floor.  The rug was rolled up and stuck out at some ungodly angle across the room.  Another wheelbarrow was filled with bricks and completed the picture of my otherwise neat living room.

And, of course, the next day was my day off and the time to clean the house, wash, iron, bake, etc.  Naturally, when I started to vacuum the following morning I wasn’t surprised to find that the electricity had gone off.  Well, since I had an all electric kitchen, I was also unable to bake, wash, iron, etc.  “What the heck this will be a great time to clean out drawers and closets” I told myself, undaunted by it all.  Always the optimist!

Since I had a growing daughter, there always seemed to be outgrown clothes to be sorted out.  I had these outgrown clothes in one pile, clothes to be mended in another pile, clothes that needed bleaching in another pile, dirty clothes to be washed in another.  All around the room there were dresser drawers that I hadn’t  even touched yet when the doorbell rang.

Now, remember that the living room also had a flapping canvas outside wall, wheelbarrows of bricks and cement, and an open piece of flooring where the foundation had to be laid, as well as the mess I had made that morning.  My first thought was to ignore the doorbell completely.  This had been my wisest thought for some time.  But I quickly changed my mind, thinking that any friend of mine would laugh with me over the horrible mess.  I went smiling to the door to find a strange little old couple standing there.”  (to be continued in Post #14)


Dorothy loves her animals, but even tragedy has a lighter side.

“One dark and quiet night about 12:30, a blood-curdling scream rent the air.  Somehow I knew that one of our neighbor’s dogs had one of my ducks.  We jumped up and ran to the back pasture.  There, sure enough, was a neighbor’s dog dragging the poor drake through the fence toward home.  Ted retrieved the duck, which was already dead, and told me to go into the house while he buried it.  The other duck (the hen) stood around and cried the most pitiful wail ever thought possible.  She grieved for her mate all night long, and the noise was most heart rendering.  I knew what I had to do, so when I knew that my boss would be up in the morning, I called him to let him know that I would be late to work.  I explained about the attack, the dog, and the grieving hen.  My boss knew there was nothing to do but accept the situation as gracefully as he could.

As soon as the wholesale producers would answer their phones, I began explaining my problem to them.  All that any of them had to sell were frozen ducks.  This would hardly serve the purpose.  And all the while I could hear the grieving hen.  This drove me on.  I tried producer after producer, all with the inevitable offer of frozen ducks.

I finally reached one woman who probably thought that I was slightly mad.  She did have one young drake (alive) that she would sell to me.  Naturally, she lived forty-five miles away.  I hurriedly got in my car to drive after the new mate for my hen.  When I arrived, the woman explained to me that all drakes do not appeal to all hens.  I declared that it was worth the risk as she had the only one that was not frozen in Northern California.  I paid for the drake and stuck him in a cardboard box with the lid open enough to admit air, put the box on the back seat of my station wagon, and drove off.

Then I began to worry, would the hen accept this drake?  If not how far would I have to drive to obtain another one?  And how much time would my boss feel as adequate to take off in the interest of duck romancing?  All of these thoughts were going through my head as I was driving down the freeway.  Suddenly I came to the realization that occupants of other cars were driving erratically, and staring at the station wagon with more than a passing interest.  I whirled around and looked at the back seat.  The drake had somehow gotten out of the box and was sitting up on the back seat as big as you please, with his head out of the window, staring at the occupants of passing cars.  Somehow I knew that I had the right duck.  He was “one of us,” my worries were over.”

Ducks amongst other poultry

Image via Wikipedia

Dorothy had a real love of animals and the ducks added to her collection of screwballs…

“My nephews, Poncho and John, went to the Fresno District Fair, and much to my sister Jackie’s consternation, won two baby ducks.  They had no room or facilities for them so the most obvious solution would be to make a gift of them to Aunt Dorothy.  Well, being me, I took one look at the little darlings and received them with open arms.  These animals also weren’t quite normal, in the usual sense, but, by now, I more or less accepted this with my animals.  The ducks loved to go into the kitchen, stand by the refrigerator and wait for Stella to give them some milk.  They didn’t know that ducks do not drink milk.  They also did not know that ducks did not sleep with seven year-old girls (under covers yet) until I caught them one night and made them sleep outside.

The very worst problem that I had to face with those screwball ducks was their absolute hatred of water.  They were supposed to be white ducks, but were seldom clean enough to deserve that title.  The only way I could force them into the water was to toss frozen peas, which they loved, into their pond.  They would go into the water after the peas with the same type of attitude you might expect from a cat.  If I threw in enough peas, they would be fairly clean for a little while.  Then the pea episode would have to be repeated.  Anyone watching this process would probably shake his head in disbelief.”

Dorothy feels awful that she stepped on one of the baby chicks.  Half Chick becomes a beloved pet…

“Half Chick became housebroke at an early age, loved to watch TV with us, and his favorite pastime of all to ride in the car with me, perched on my shoulder.  He, in time, became a huge and beautiful White Leghorn.  His head healed nicely, although only half of it was there.  The skin grew around the crushed side of his head, although he never grew feathers there.  Incidentally, we named him Half-Chick upon his ability to outlive that terrible accident.  He had the choicest of food and received the best of care.

One day I was driving down the freeway with the half-chick perched in his usual position on my shoulder.  A telltale red light came on in back of me.  My first question was the usual as I pulled over and stopped for the highway patrolman.  “What did I do wrong, officer?” was my unoriginal question.  “Nothing”, was his response, “I just wanted to find out what kind of creature you had perched on your shoulder.”  And looking, I could see that he still wasn’t sure.  “It’s a White Leghorn,” I stated proudly.  He shook his head slowly as he went back to his vehicle.  I drove on.”

A day-old chick

Image via Wikipedia

Dorothy has a soft spot for animals and now she has 5 acres…

One beautiful early spring day our first year on the ranch I made a fatal decision.  It all started guilelessly enough with an innocent walk through a shopping center, while spring fever surged through my veins.  One display window in a feed store featured the sweetest, most precious looking day-old baby chicks imaginable.  I thought to myself,  “We have five acres of ground.  If the chicks aren’t too expensive, I can buy several and we can have eggs of our own.”  This sounded plausible to me as I went in to inquire the cost of the precious little darlings.  I was so amazed to learn that the chicks only cost a few cents each, so I wound up with one hundred and fifty chicks. I bought the suggested feed, several books on raising chickens, and made my way home.  Upon arriving home, I found cardboard boxes, lined them with flannel, put in feed and water, and rigged up electric lights to keep them warm and installed my chicks in their new home.  This happened to be in the confines of the pantry, as we had no other place for them.  They were so small that they took up so little space.

The following morning my sister Betty dropped over for a visit and I went into the pantry to get something, and emerged white-faced.  Betty asked, What’s the matter?  What happened?  You look awful.”  “I feel awful, Betty.  I just stepped on the head of one of the baby chicks.  Do me a favor and pick it up and put it in a little box, set it up on a shelf and Ted can bury it when he gets home.”  I couldn’t even look at it I felt so terrible.  I could feel its bones crunch as I walked on it bare foot.  Being the person Betty was, she complied.

The following morning, Ted came into the kitchen and asked me why I had isolated one little chick without food or water.  “Oh, I forgot to tell you last night, but I stepped on the poor thing’s head and saw going to ask you to bury it for me.” was my reply.  “It’s not dead.  Come see for yourself,” he answered.  “Don’t tease me about a thing like that, I feel bad enough about it.”

“Really, Dorothy, it is alive and it looks good and strong to me, except for his poor little head,” Ted told me.  “Come and have a look.”  Against my better judgement, I looked and to my amazement, the chick was hopping around and looked great, except for his head.

Half of his head was crushed in and from then on, nothing was too good for that little chick.  I had read that, incase of injury, the natural instinct of the other chicks would be to peck at the unfortunate peer, so he was kept isolated for the rest of his life.  I don’t know how much of his apparent intelligence was the result of living in the house away from the other chickens, how much was due to a natural unusually high intelligence, and how much was due to the right scrambling of his brains when I stepped on him.

Dorothy and Ted and dinner guests laughed off the dripping rain on the inside of the ranch, but the leaks caused more problems…

“One interesting facet of our rain problems, discounting the leaky roof, was our lack of electricity in the living room and bedroom during and for several days following each rainstorm. Since we had no money for an electrician, let alone a roofer, we managed with kerosene lamps whenever this phenomenon occurred.  After all, it rained infrequently in Central California.  No great problem.  Several months later when we decided to do minor remodeling in the living room, Ted tore off several sections of knotty pine paneling and we about died.  Somehow in the wiring of the house, someone had used a piece of extension cord instead of regular household wiring.  This carried a heavy load of electricity for part of the living room and it was a miracle there were no dangerous repercussions from it.  Another place in the wall had two bare wires hooked nonchalantly together.  This “hook-up” would pull apart as the wood in the wall swelled during a rainstorm and not only would leave us without electricity until the wood dried, but also played a little game of “how much wood can we char while we are sparking and pulling apart”.   Needless to say, we didn’t sleep well until the whole house was rewired.”