The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Smack Down, Devil Queen Style

There is no polite way I can think to say it. My wife and I were the proud recipients of a first-class shit kicking this weekend. Saturday was such a bad work day at the Queen that we took Sunday off.

The day started auspiciously enough. I got up at 6AM and went to work on the never-ending mural. I finished a lot of it in three hours, and I was offered a job on a new mural in downtown Russellville. This is particularly exciting since they are willing to pay for my services. In true house-whore fashion, I immediately began calculating how much stuff I could by for the Queen with the money.

I quit painting for the day and made it home by 9:30AM. The heat was already getting brutal. My wife and I decided to run some errands while we waited for the hottest part of the day to pass. This included a trip to Lowe's where we picked up some painting supplies and a light to hang over the kitchen sink (presuming we will get to install the sink). We weren't planning on getting the light, but it was on sale for $11.00, so it was hard to say no.

We headed up to the Queen after dinner. We set up everything, put on our painting gear, and got to work. I tried out our new paint sprayer for the first time while my wife caulked. It went well enough for the first ten minutes of so.

First, the tub of caulk my wife was using exploded. An inch long crack opened up in the side of the tube. It started curling off huge gobs of white caulk which my wife scooped up by hand and tried apply to the wall with a putty knife (waste not, want not).

A few minutes later the paint sprayer quit working. The motor hummed but the primer quit flowing. I'd take finger off the trigger, check all the lines, and try again. A brief, thick jet of primer would splatter against the wall and then it'd quit again.

Sensing that I was getting frustrated, my wife offered to switch jobs (she'd gotten the caulk explosion under control), and I gratefully agreed to the swap. My wife spent fifteen or twenty minutes fiddling with it, taking it apart, and cleaning parts of it. Nothing helped.

With a wild look in her eyes, she set the sprayer down even thought she really wanted to throw it across the room. Then she started to cry. "This kitchen will NEVER be finished," she moaned. After trying to settle her down, I took the sprayer completely apart and took it out to our lone water spigot for thorough washing. I found our problem when I flushed the feed/return lines out. It was the primer equivalent of a blood clot. A huge, thick gob of semi-congealed primer had lodged itself in the middle of the feed-line.

My wife had used the sprayer to prime most of the room without incident. The difference was that we switched primers. We'd used Kiltz for the first part of the kitchen. We were going to buy some more, but someone recommended Zelner's (or Zeller's) Bull's-eye primer. This stuff it noticeably thicker than Kiltz and is supposed to have better covering ability (in our opinion it does). Even thought I'd watered it down some, apparently it wasn't enough.

In the mean time, my wife had resorted to priming the ceiling with a good ol' paint brush. We decided that we didn’t want to screw around with the sprayer anymore that night, so she carried on with the brush and I went back to caulking.

On the upside, I'm really good at caulking. I had a lot of experience on our last house, and it is paying off now. I don't mean to be a braggart, but the section of the room I caulked looks damn good. Maybe I've found my calling in life.

We got an hour of work in after the paint sprayer debacle before the heat and humidity became unbearable. Even without the sun, the temperature was still in the mid to upper 80's. The humidity was high and there was no breeze. The fumes from the Bull's-Eye were pretty stout too. Unfortunately, the window fan didn’t help us much. We were irritable, exhausted, and about ready to call it a night.

"Well, let me finish this last tube of caulk and we'll go," I said.

"Okay. I'm going to start cleaning up."

My wife gathered up all the painting gear and left to wash it off. I went back to caulking. I laid down a bead of caulk about a foot long and that was it. The tube was empty.

When I told my wife, she jokingly said that it must be an omen. It was time to call it quits.

By light of our cheap-ass flashlight (all of our Maglite flashlights have disappeared), we made our way back to the truck and piled in. Everything seemed to be in order until I turned the key. There was a clicking noise, but the engine wouldn't turn over. It seemed that the battery was dead.

We were pissed-off and baffled. We hadn't left the lights on, the interior lights were off so the doors weren't ajar, and the clock, dash-lights, and interior lights all worked. We'd been using it for weeks without any problem. It was a little after nine o'clock then. We dragged ourselves out of the truck and walked up to our neighbors' house. No one was home. We went around the corner and walked down to the first house outside of our neighborhood. All the lights were on which was a good sign. We knocked on the door and then again, but nobody answered. Out behind the house, there is a single-wide mobile home. It's lights were on and we could hear the TV.

As we walked across the yard to the mobile home, my wife said, "I bet it'll be like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I hope that I don't get put on the meat-hook."

"If it is, I hope that I go quickly. It would free us from a certain amount of anxiety at any rate."

We knocked on the door and a moment later it opened. A nice looking middle aged woman with short hair answered the door. No meat-hooks for the stranded home renovators so far. We explained problem and she told us that she'd get her husband. The mobile home belonged to her mother, and she and her husband lived in the house in front. It turns out that he hadn't heard us knock because he was taking a bath. Instead of letting us use their phone, he drove us back down to our truck tried to jump the truck for us. Jumping the truck didn't work.

My wife and I were both at a loss. If it wouldn't jump, what else could be wrong? I hate to admit it, but I don't know anything about cars. My wife taught me to change a tire. I can check the oil and pump gas. That is it. On the John Wayne Scale of Manliness, in the Automotive Subcategory I get a one out of ten.

Fortunately, our neighbor knows a good bit about cars, so he tried a few other things. First he tried cleaning the corrosion off the battery. Then he tried "the screw driver trick" of shorting two terminals on the starter celluniod (spelling?). Neither worked. As a test, we took the battery out our truck and put it in his. His truck stated right up. So, it wasn't our battery. All other possibilities having been eliminated, our problem is that the truck's battery cables are too old and corroded to carry enough current to start the truck. We stripped the cables back and they are green-gray with corrosion. There is no shiny red copper to be seen.

It was 11 PM by the time he came to this conclusion. There was nothing else to do. My wife asked if she could use his phone to give her mom a call.

"Aw, I can give ya a ride home."

"Are you sure, its about fifteen minutes away. It's awfully late."

"It's no problem at all."

So, he gave us a ride home.



"Thank God we didn't keep working. If we’d waited any later, we'd have probably ended up walking home. I just wouldn’t feel right waking someone up at midnight," my wife said.

"Yeah. So, how much to you think it would cost to get our phone line installed?"

"I don't know."

"Might be useful. We might check it out," I said.

We didn't get to bed until sometime after midnight. I got up at 7AM Sunday to work on the mural. I didn't get much done. By 11AM the heat index was over 100 degrees. I was done for the day. Period.

Sometimes, when you're getting nowhere, it is just better to sit back, rest, and gather up some energy for the next time around. As it is, I'm tired, sore all over, and I've aggravated the knee I blew out working in the attic last year. I can only imagine how bad I would be feeling if I'd kept at it.

5 Comments:

Blogger Messiah said...

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9:44 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

That is one hum-dinger of a smackdown. We all hit walls I think in one way or another that remind us how human we are and who is in charge (not us). You guys WILL finish your kitchen. If you keep at it, you will finish it, there are no 2 ways about it. Spoken from someone whose kitchen took over a year to complete, I can safely vouch for that.

I have never used a paint sprayer. We always use rollers with poles for the ceiling and cut the corners with a paint brush. We are kind of low-tech at our house.

Hang in there and tell your wife I've cried over our kitchen too so she isn't the only one!

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Amanda said...

Wow.

Wow.

I am also not a big fan of paint sprayers for this very reason. ITA w Jocelyn and would use a roller on the ceiling. Wear a hat to keep the paint out of your hair, or go speckled like I do.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Trissa said...

Boy do I feel for you- I'm feeling a bit worn out, but I think that would have put me over the edge! You will finish the kitchen & it will be worth all the hard work and frustration!

1:20 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

That's one to tell the grand kids about. Yes, kitchens do take forever. 7 Months and counting for me.

3:38 PM  

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