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!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Tax Season

You know something is wrong when you find yourself thinking, "God, I wish it was tax season."

In the last two years, tax season has become a second Christmas for us. With all the interest we pay on college loans and mortgages plus the deduction for our son, we’ve been getting a nice chunk of money back from Uncle Sam. And, paying an accountant to do all the nasty work for you is priceless.

Unfortunately, about four months separate us from our tax refund check, and I need $328.64 by October 7th for the Queen's next insurance payment. Normally, I could scrounge that up, but we've also had to come up with $78.00 for the property tax on the Queen, $250.00 for some bulldozer work, and $280.00 for Tony (we miscalculated last week but he forgave us since we paid in cash).

My only hope is that I either finish a commissioned oil painting this weekend and get paid before Friday, or Mr. Chronister comes back Sunday and buys some of the furniture we're trying to sell. (If anyone is interested in a wood-burning cook-stove, a Rockefeller style reproduction desk, a dining room table, a pair of 1909 mica lamps, or an upright box-grand piano, let me know).

I hate wheeling and dealing with folks. I'm not a people person, and I have no experience. I'm really bad at it. My wife has covered most of the contracting and deal making for the Queen. Since I work over an hour away from home, it was impossible for me to meet with every contractor, realtor, et cetera to get things done. Unless I had to sign papers, my wife took care of it. Since my wife started working last week, I've had to pick up some of the slack. It has not been pretty. Actually, finding someone that does rock work has been a disaster.

My wife says that I'm too nice, too mild. I come across as a pushover according to her. I'd deny it, but she's right. I envy my wife's skill with people. She comes from a long line of bootleggers, outlaws, used car salesmen, politicians, and con-artists, and it has been handy.

One of her great-great-great-grandfathers was Lying Jessie Cowan. Her family considers him a real black sheep, but I find him fascinating. They way they talk about him, you'd think that he was still alive. In addition to being an excellent conman, he practiced law and medicine without a license. They family lost track of him in the 1850's. After he and his wife divorced, she remarried. The man was a cruel S.O.B. so she killed him. She faked insanity and was placed in the state mental hospital. Jessie fast-talked the state into releasing her into his custody, and they fled Arkansas with their six children. He somehow came up with enough money to build a huge plantation in Louisiana before the Civil War. After the war, no one knows what happened to him.

My wife has inherited a knack for reading people, talking with them, and getting them to do what she wants for a reasonable (or very low) price. She doesn't think that she's very good at it, but we wouldn't have made it this far without her skills. For whatever it is worth, I'm trying to learn from her. Just hope I don't make too many more mistakes.

As for money, there is some hope. Earlier in the week my wife and I were hovering over our kitchen table counting through our secret stash. Loose pocket change, a savings bond, and a few crumpled bills were pilled on the table. My wife counts through it all again as I watch.

"We're still $60 short for Tony. Even if we sell the lamp to mom this weekend, we won't have enough. Do you think he'll be upset if we're short again?"

"I don't know, I doubt it. Particularly if we pay cash again. That, and we're paying most of what we were short last time anyhow."

Two days later my wife came home from work. "Guess what I got today?"

"Not a clue, what did you get?"

"Do you remember that $60 we need for Tony?"


"Look," she says handing me a slip of paper.

I take that paper from her. It's a paycheck. "They're paying you for last week already?"


"Wow. They're faster than where I work. I didn't figure they'd pay you for another week."

"I know. Pretty amazing, isn't it."

Serendipity, miracles, or kind hearts, I'll take whatever I can get. Just send it my way.


Blogger Kristin said...

Would you happen to have photos of that dining room table and the 1909 lamps? :)

1:56 PM  
Blogger John said...

I don't have photos, but I will get some this week if you may be interested.

7:24 AM  

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