The Devil Queen

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

My Photo
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!

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Amazing, Growing Built-In

Saturday the wife, my son, and I went up to the Queen to see what Kenny had finished that week. Here are a couple of pictures of the built-in cabinets/shelves in my son's bedroom (complete with gratuitous bottle shot).

We're going to see if Kenny will deck the cabinet top with left-over tongue-in-groove flooring we used in the additions & kitchen.

I'm pleased with our built-in but part of me feels like a traitor. When we started this project, we'd planned to do a lot more restoring than renovating. Really, nothing to be too upset about I guess, but it does nag at me a little.

We're still trying to decide what we ought to do with the closet in this room. Originally, they installed a 1970's style "accordion" (bi-fold?) sliding door on a track. I thought that we'd pull it out and replace it with one of our old, salvaged doors. The problem with that is the clearance. There is plenty of room for the closet door to open as long as you don't want to open or close the bedroom door at the same time. That could be a problem. A pocket door would be a consideration except that it would require some major demolition an reframing.

We'll have to decide what to do with this pretty soon. Once Kenny finishes the built-in, the closet is the last major project in this room (minus so trim and refinishing the floor).

I am tickled with this little piece of work Kenny did. It's the rough-in for the ceiling fixture in the master bathroom. I wasn't sure how we'd mount a light to the cathedral ceiling, and now I know.

A Mixed Blessing: The Shrinking Wood Pile

The Queen has a voracious appetite for lumber. Here is photo of what is left of our main wood pile. At this time last year, it would have stretched from the old AC unit in background to the giant rock in the foreground. The pile was about 15 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep for the whole length.

On the upside, the wood has been put to good use and its vanishing is an excellent sign of progress. On the downside, for the first time in years, I'm worried about running out of wood.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Change of Pace

Every Friday I write a little post about what a good DIY'er I'm going to be over the weekend. Since it's consistently been complete BS for the last month or two, I thought I'd forgo that ritual bit of deception. If I get anything done this weekend, it will be a friggin' miracle. Do me a favor and pray for divine intervention.

Kenny came by to get paid last night. He was really excited about the built-in they started this week. I haven't seen it since Wednesday night, but is sounds like they might finish it today or Monday. I've been please with everything he's done so far, so I'm curious about this shelf/cabinet since he's so excited.

I'd give you all more than this lame little post, but I've been having a lot of problems with my Web Design homework this week. After six hours of staring at the same friggin' code, the last thing you want to look at is a computer screen. Hopefully, I'll have a lot more to say than this come Monday. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bedroom Built-In or The Magic of Kenny, Part II

Sorry the photo is a little fuzzy. Not enough or too much to drink I guess. This is the sketch for the built-in for my son's room. They'll be about 8 1/2 feet long, 8 feet tall, and about 22 inches deep (covering the hole in the floor).

And here is a picture of Kenny's work on them so far. Not much to look at, but it is definately a nice start (the board laying across the base isn't mounted yet, I'm not thinking that it isn't ment to go there in case you're wondering).

Yet Another Victim of Recreational Drug Use

If anyone in my household deserves the moniker of Resident Genius, it is my wife. She's too modest and filled with self-loathing to actually accept such a title, but it's true. I know you're wondering what I did to launch into this marathon of spousal butt kissing, but it's not like that, really. The other night my wife conjured up a definitive answer as to why we have that weird beam between our living room and dining room, and that is genius.

Using Occam's Razor as a guide, she came up with the simplest explanation possible: Cocaine.

The 1980's were a tragic decade for fashion, architecture, and American pop-culture as a whole. Whether cocaine was the cause of these social and aesthetic problems or society's way of coping with such ugly shit is still a topic of considerable debate among sociologists.

Prior to my wife's inspired revelation, we had believed the wall between these two rooms had been removed in the 1920's when major renovations were made to the Queen. Upon closer inspection, the evidence points to a different conclusion.

First, Victorians loved doors and they loved enclosed spaces. Everything had its proper place, and their homes reflected this. It is probable that the Boswell's left the wall intact only adding a doorway to the new additions. There is a trace of a threshold still visible on the living room floor that supports this.

Second, after Kenny removed all the dry wall from the beam and surrounding walls, a considerable amount of new (20-30 year old) wood was used to support the beam. The drywall, the thin sheets of wood paneling, and other "improvements" all seem to date to the same time period as the wood. This suggests that they were all installed at roughly the same time.

Third, the whole great room (combined living & dining area or kitchen & living area) idea was popular in the late 1970's & the 1980's. My mother's house (c. 1975) is a prime example of this style of design.

So, based on this evidence, I'm thinking that the previous owners sucked a fat mountain of coke up their nose and tore the freaking wall out for posterity. It also goes a long way to explain why the style of these two rooms doesn't quite match the rest of the Queen.

As part of our long term renovation plan, we're thinking about installing some period fretwork & decorative columns under this beam to help blend it into the Queen's overall design.

Out of curiosity, is Victorian era interior fret work more prevalent in some parts of the US than others? I only ask because my wife and I have never seen an example of it in the South. We're wondering if this yet another regional difference in style like the South's propensity for horizontal beadboard walls vs. vertical beadboard in other regions. Thoughts?

More Crack than Your Caulk Can Handle

We've got way too much crack in our foyer. The front wall of the house has pulled forward (100+ years of settling & a 16 mile move) from the rest of the house. The only place where this is a serious problem is where the foyer wall should meet the front wall. Notice I say "should." Currently, there is a crack nearly two inches wide that runs from the floor to the ceiling. It's big enough for you to stick your whole hand in and wiggle it around.

I don't think caulking this crack is an option.

I have two possible solutions for this. One, I scribe a board that will fit this gap and then caulk and paint it. Two, I install some freaking enourmous corner trim (cove?) in each of the four corners of the foyer. The problem I have with both solutions is that I'm not convinced that they won't look like ass.

Any and all suggestions are welcome.

The Magic of Kenny, Part I

I finally made it to the Queen last night. I was pleased to see Kenny has been busy this week.

Here is the "beam" between the living room and dining room clad in beadboard.

The mint green door was originally mounted in the rear hall. We had Kenny take it out to install the 12 pane glass door. I turns out this door (minus an 1" shaved off the bottom) fits this doorway from the dining room to porch. One of the previous owners had removed the original door (leaving the trim and rough-in) and nailed up a piece of plywood in its place. I'm not sure how this would be qualified as an "improvement." People are freaks.

While I'm not a fan of the color, I would say that this door looks like it was ment to go here.

Kenny installed some of the upper cabinets this week. It occured to me that all the cabinets in this photo are nearly equal to the cabinet space we have in our Blue House now. Nice. When we move in we'll have more than enough space for the obscene amount of crap we've acquired. God, I love upgrading.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Naked and Famous

"Everybody wants to be naked and famous
Everybody wants to be like me
I'm naked"

- Presidents of the United States of America

Compared to the last few years, the last few months have been fairly quiet and, God forbid, normal in regards to the Queen. No stalkers in single engine planes. No crazy people. Nothing. Kenny comes to work, things get finished in record time, and everyone is happy.

I was beginning to suspect that something was horribly wrong, but I can now rest assured that the Queen's influence spreads like a pandemic illness. Even the streets of NYC are not free from her calling.

Over the weekend I was interviewed by a freelance writer/journalist in NY for a book on real estate and home renovations. While I'm flattered (bewildered) that they'd want to talk to me, I'm not too torqued up about the whole thing for the moment. I can only assume that, at best, my fifteen minutes of fame may not even make it to print. Even a raving megalomaniac like me is cognizant of the fact that I was probably not the only person interviewed for the book. Likening a DIY project to involuntary sodomy may not be to everyone's taste. Sorry, just kidding. Sort of. Not that renovation isn't like involuntary sodomy (because it is), but I didn't actually say that in the interview. Instead, I did my impression of Alan Greenspan. Wow, you know that was a crowd pleaser.

The book should come out sometime around the end of the year. When it does, I'll let everyone know if the Queen is famous or not. In the meantime, we'll just have to settle for naked.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Fat of the Land

I had an above average weekend. Actually, it was pretty damn good. I succeed in eating my own body weight in cream cheese and bacon grease, spent most of my time in my pajamas draped across comfy furniture, and didn't do much of anything under the pretence of hiding from severe winter weather. Fat, flannel, and sloth, does it get any better than that? Minus a fleeting existential crisis, it was a pretty good weekend.

Even if we'd been spared the token freezing rain, It’s doubtful that we'd have worked on the Queen. The temperature never made it above freezing for three days, so the hell with working in an unheated house. The folks that loaned us the scaffolding came to retrieve it Sunday. I was sad to see it go, and it has me thinking about buying some of our own. I went up to the Queen to help them load it, and, true to form, I forgot to bring my camera.

Kenny finished the dining room wall, re-installed the weird, pseudo-midget door in the dinning room (more about that in a later post), finished insulating the master bathroom, nearly completed the master bathroom ceiling, stripped the drywall out the main hall, living room, and dining room, patched the living room floor, and a few other jobs. It's looking good, and sometime this week I'll take my camera up there prove it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

"It Is Time for Stormy Weather. . ."

If the weather is half as bad as the predictions, I'm sure there will be no work on the Devil Queen. We're in for sleet, freezing rain, and a couple inches of snow. Nice. Having to spend all weekend trapped in my little blue house isn't too bad, except I'm worried that we'll loose power with all the ice. We have two or three pieces of firewood left, and unless I work a Jesus-like miracle, I don't see those three logs keeping us warm for three days if the power goes.

Kenny came by last night for his weekly pay check. I haven't made it to the Queen this week. We've been too damn busy. Kenny said they stripped all the drywall out of the dinning room & living room (a good thing), tore up the rest of the red masonite flooring in the dining room, installed a door from the dining room to the back porch, and a few other small jobs.

Today, the master bathroom ceiling should be installed. Once the ceiling is in, we'll have to do an invitatory of all our remaining wood. If we have enough wood, we'll use it for a few more walls. If not, it's time to order some drywall.

It'll probably be Tuesday or Wednesday before I'll be able to visit the Queen with my camera, so no photos till then.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Kitchen Plans

Here are two sketches of our "U" shaped kitchen design. Sorry, freehanded the drawings so the angles are off.

Since we don't have as many pre-fab cabinets as we'd like, we're having Kenny custom build the rest from salvaged wood. The idea is for the custom cabinets not to match the pre-fab ones. We want them to look old and rustic, like they'd always been there. We're hoping to make the kitchen look like it is a harmonious blend of the old and the new. I'm not sure how well we'll succeed, but we should find out soon.

I Never Wanted to be a Low-Level Bureaucrat . . .

I never wanted to be a low-level Bureaucrat, I always wanted to be [me, stripping off the gray suit to reveal my manly red-plaid] a LUMBERJACK!

I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK
I sleep all night and I work all day.

Chorus: He's a lumberjack and he's OK
He sleeps all night and he works all day.

I cut down trees, I eat my lunch I go to the lavatory.
On Wednesdays I go shopping and have buttered scones for tea

Mounties: He cut down trees, he eat his lunch He go to the lavatory.
On Wednesdays he go shopping and has buttered scones for tea.

Chorus: He's a lumberjack and he's OK
He sleeps all night and he works all day.

I cut down trees, I skip and jump I like to press wild flowers.
I put on women's clothing and hang around in bars.

Mounties: He cuts down trees, he skips and jumps He likes to press wild flowers.
He puts on women's clothing and hangs around in bars?!

Chorus: He's a lumberjack and he's OK
He sleeps all night and he works all day.

I cut down trees, I wear high heels Suspenders and a bra.
I wish I'd been a girlie, just like my dear papa!

Mounties: He cuts down trees, he wears high heels?! Suspenders...and a bra?!
...He's a lumberjack and he's OK He sleeps all night and he works all day.

...He's/I'm a lumberjack and he's/I'm OK
He/I sleep all night and he/I work all day.

Sorry (not really) for the gratuitous Lumberjack Song, but, damnit, sometimes you just need the Lumberjack Song. The Philosopher Song is pretty good too.

The wife and I are both at a crossroads where we'd like to quit our jobs. There have been a lot of changes where my wife works, and she isn't too happy about them. As for me, I'm bored with my dead-end job. Had we not acquired the Queen when we did, I would have quit years ago.

As it is now, neither of us can afford to quit until the Queen is mortgaged and we pay off the construction loan and lots of other debt. If we keep Kenney a little longer and have a month and a half long painting orgy, we may be ready to mortgage the Queen in April this year.

What will happen then? I don't know, but I really wish I did. I'm hoping that we'll have some desirable options available when that time comes.

Damn the slings and arrows, blah, blah, blah . . .

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More Photos From the Weekend

Kenny has started reinstalling and repairing the beadboard wainscotting in the main hall. That ugly, white return air vent should be coming out this week. It is all that is left of the aborted chip-board beast that was in our living room.

This is a picture of our mystery beam in between the living room and the dining room. At some point in the 1920's this beam was part of the Devil Queen's rear, exterior wall. They tore the wall out and built on the dining room and kitchen. Until last week, this beam was clad in a veneer of 1/4 inch drywall. We were scared to find out what was under this veneer, but it wasn't as bad as we feared.

The side facing the living room is clad with the original wall boards. It is a little rough, but not too bad. The side facing the dining room is all new wood (10-25 years old would be my guess). It looks solid, but it's ugly. The picture makes it look better than it really is. We're going to clad the beam in beadboard to make it look uniform and neat.

In case you're wondering, taking it out is not an option. If we took it out, the best we could hope for is that the ceilings would collapse. The worst case is a portion of the roof would come with it.

This is the wall between the dining room and the kitchen. We stripped off all the wall boards last sumer to move the doorway from the far left to the center of the wall. I put the kitchen side up months ago, and Kenney finally started on the dining room side. Unfortunately, we're running short on wood.

First, a couple of the original wall boards were used to patch the hall ceiling when I wasn't looking. Second, once you account for triming the boards to new lengths to accomodate the doorway, you end up with a lot of 1 foot long boards with no where to go. We have some old, painted beadboard that matches the wall so we'll probably use it to finish. We'd planned to Danish Oil the wall since it had never been painted. If we would still like to do this, we'll have to strip the last 1 1/2 to2 feet of the wall. Or, we have to stripe these boards and then paint the whole thing. We're not sure which we'll do. It depends on how bad the stripped wood looks I guess. If we decide to paint it, we'll either use a green or the same red as the living room. Yet another accent wall?

He is the back porch's recently enclosed eve. Just a little something to give it that finished look and to keep the birds and wasps out.

An Old Look for the New Hall

The extent of our work on the Devil Queen over the weekend was meeting Kenny on Sunday to talk over some new projects we have for him. We got there early and inspected all his work from the previous week.

This is me saying, "Holy shit, he did a good job putting in this door." After four weeks, I'm still in shock that I have someone that knows what they are doing. We paid $5.00 for this door a couple years ago at an auction. It's missing a pane of glass, but there isn't much else wrong with it. Kenny had to remove the knob & lockset so he could trim an inch off each side of the door. I'll have to patch the holes from the original hardware like Greg did a month or so ago and install a new set. I don't feel too bad about cutting on the door. From what we can tell, it is probably only 30 some-odd years old.

Here is the same door from the inside. I am still baffled as to why people feel compelled to paint glass. Note all of that wonderful, old beadboard.

Here is more beadboard. This is looking into the mudroom-laundry-bathroom.

And here is the door and hall again. Note the exposed studs to the left. We'd originally intended to do the whole hall in beadboard, but we've finally run out of it. We'll probably have to do it with drywall because we're to poor to buy more new wood and don't have the time to tear down a house in few weeks. We like to think of our compromise with drywall as an "accent wall." I think I'll be able to live with it.

We're thinking about leave the wood in its current "rustic" condition. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Valentine's Day Story

A Valentine's Day Story

For a number of years, my wife's mom owned two flower shops. One was located in Atkins and the other in Russellville. Mother's Day and Valentine's Day are the two busiest and most profitable days of the whole year. The weeks leading up these holidays turn every flower shop in America into a mad house. Fourteen to eighteen hour days are not uncommon. If you're ordering flowers, be nice to the folks at the flower shop.

My mother-in-law would recruit whoever she could to help at the flower shop when the holidays came around. One year, she hired her then sister-in-law, Elaine, to work for Valentines. As I understand it, Elaine was a very intelligent woman and con artist. She collected college degrees (German, Biology, and something else I think) and wealthy husbands with equal enthusiasm.

I'm not sure that she was all too excited with working at the flower shop. She was spared any of the actual design work, and spent most of her time filling out the cards that accompanied the flowers. She got tired of signing writing "Happy Valentine's Day," over and over, so she shortened it to, "Happy VD."

A few hours later after these cards started going out, frantic phone calls came pouring into the flower shop. Scores of people were calling to find out who had sent the flowers (of course some were sent anonymously) and what did they mean by VD?! Apparently, a lot of folks were worried that they'd caught the clap for the holidays.

So, hope y'all have a Happy VD!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Spring Flowers and Snow

Well, I'll be damned if it isn't snowing. I feel bad for all the tulips trees and flowers that are getting ready to bloom.

I think that I've also reached my limit for the number of projects that I can handle at one time. Even though things are moving fairly well, the constant rushing around and constant work is wearing me out.

I'm not planning to do anything this weekend except sleep, eat, and lounge around in my pajamas.

More photos of the Queen come Monday or so.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cult of the Devil Queen

I need a new job. I'd prefer one closer to home, the 2 1/2 hour commute is killing me. I think that it's time for me to implement Plan B.

Back in those halcyon college days, a couple friends and I decided we needed a Plan B if adult life didn't work out for us. We decided that our Plan B would be starting a religious cult. We agreed that our religion would have to absolve followers of sins, offer an apocalyptic ending for the world, paradise after death, and the usual fare without all the annoying thou-shall-nots (Like the prohibition of alcohol and bestiality; murder would still be bad of course).

Most importantly, we'd offer a refuge for the hopelessly insane and socially handicapped that drift on the outer margins of society. And, as long as we provided all the necessary answers for a meaningful existence, hopefully the faithful would tithe enough to the cult that we'd never have to work. This would leave us with enough time to: sleep-in, read, watch bad, late night television, play video games, and drink.

Would you believe people say I have cynical outlook on the world? Just let my sad example be a warning to all you mothers out there. When your sons reach that awkward age of about 14, don't let them spend hours locked in their bedroom alone reading Machiavelli. It could lead to blindness and a jaded, anti-social weltanschauung! Instead, give them porn.

While it's unfashionable to admit it, I must confess that I harbor a secret urge to spread the Devil Queen and her dominion over the whole earth. This is only fitting since I'm the cult's head-priest. The blog is only the first step in my insidious and far reaching conspiracy. The Freemasons don't have anything on my Dark Mistress and I.

For those of you who object to my unctuous, amoral ways but still want a way out, I would recommend that you do what my friend Daryl did, marry a Canadian. For those of you who were blessed to be born Canadian, this plan won't work for you. As a foreign national who has married a Canadian, you won't be able to legally work in Canada for several months (a year or more?) and your new spouse will have to agree to support you financially for two years even in the event of divorce.

So, at this very moment, my friend is forcibly unemployed, supported by his new wife, and spending his days sleeping-in, playing video games, reading, watching bad, late night television, and drinking. God bless Canada.

Every cult has its own regalia. As high-priest, I get to where the Horned Crown. Very awe inspiring, I know.

Year One

I'd like to congratulate the blight of my life on successfully living online in the form of this blog for an entire year. May your dominion continue and expand in all its beautiful terror and wickedness.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Driven To Distraction and The Joy of Plumbing

You Housebloggers are wicked people. Lately, I've been spending way too much time reading about your homes, and not near enough time working on mine or doing my homework. The fault obviously lies with y'all and not my poor impulse control. Yeah, right.

I went by the Queen last night, and she's progressing nicely. Sorry, no photos since I forgot the camera. By the time this weekend is over, the missing dining room wall should be re-installed, a threshold between the kitchen and dining room floors should be installed, and a door jamb ought to be there too. The main hall's wainscot should be finished too. If we're lucky, a few more walls should go up.

At this point the big question is, how many more walls can we finish with wall boards before we run out? When we finally run out we'll have to start installing drywall. I'm not real excited about this, but I think it's look fine. It is definitely a lot cheaper than ordering more wood.

Anyhow, I'm going to wean myself away from your evil Houseblog influences for a while. Well, at least until I finish my homework, pay the bills, and do a few other things.

One thing that I like about the cold winter tempertures is that it keeps me from plumbing. Have I mentioned that I hate plumbing?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Reading Notes

Here's a passage from George Nash's Renovating Old Houses:

"For me, it is this spiritual dimension, above all, that makes the renovation of old houses so deeply satisfying. To bring back a house to useful life, immersing oneself in the grain and texture of an earlier way of living in the process, is ultimately an act of resurrection of both the house and its owners.

Although the old-house restorer may undertake a profoundly spiritual journey, the path is full of physical details. Like all heroic quests, it is fraught with pitfalls and perils, both real and imagined. On the mundane level, this translates into a lot of work, time, and money. . .

You will soon find that as bad as you thought the place might be, the reality is much worse. Your original estimate of time and money needed to restore the house to bare livability will increase by a factor of three. This money will disappear into largely invisible, and therefore ungratifying, structural repairs. And winter will be coming early this year.

You probably knew all this at the outset, knew that the place really was in terrible shape even as you were poking your finger through the dry-rotted beams . . .

And so you sign a mortgage but also body and soul, spouse and children over to an idea that will soon become a joy and a burden, a black hole that devours every molecule of your time, money, and spirit. Yet even when you discover that the only thing keeping the place from blowing away is the weight of mouse droppings in the attic, you wouldn't have it any other way. If this is the case, you might be one of those old-house people, a peculiar kind of maniac who is one part ability, one part inventiveness, two parts determination, three parts romanticism, and six parts damn foolishness."

I don't think I could have said it any better myself.

Wire Rats

Even though my wife and I have been indulging our debouched, decadent selves, this doesn't mean that work has stopped on the Queen. Jack and his lovely assistant spent Saturday and Sunday at the Queen running an obscene amount of wire through the Queen's walls. Winter made a surprise return over the weekend, so their efforts are especially admirable.

I haven't been up to the Queen since Saturday afternoon, so I'm not sure what is finished. I know they finished running all the wires for the master bathroom, though, do to the room's slovenly, unfinished state, they haven't been wired to the switches, lights, et cetera. Our hall bathroom has a working light and I believe all the wires have been run in the front parlor/bedroom. I'm not sure if the outlets or light switches have been installed yet.

Even if we assume that most of these wires haven't been connected, the electrical system is about 80% complete at this point. That excites me.

Many thanks to Jack and his lovely assistant. We definitely owe you.

Just Say No

Okay, no more purges for a while. I hope I've rid myself of all my bitter, angry bile. I guess since I'm not being stalked by my financer or plagued my slanderous neighbors, I've had to wallow in my filth to feed my woe.

The homeless guy in front of Starbucks this morning helped my perspective. Really, how much woe do I have?

If I feel the need purge myself in the future, I'll try to keep it contained to my journal. Sorry for the mess.

Joseph's Coat or The Six Hued Beast, Part 4 (The End)

Yeah, I know. When will this story end?! Hopefully, this will be the last installment on the roof for a while.

After hauling the mother-load of cheap shingles all over God's green earth, you'd think the rest would pretty easy. Since I am a klutz, and the roof is huge & steep, we'd decided to hire out the shingling of the roof. I say "decide" like we had a discussion about it, but it was a foregone conclusion.

Since we're basically insane, we tend to forget things that we didn't want to hear. When we were moving the house we asked James Wyche to give us a quote for shingling the roof. He laughed at us a said, "NO." We should have taken this as a hint, but we didn't. Fortunately, he did deck the roof and cover it in tarpaper.

The tarpaper did pretty well until all the winter storms started screaming out of the north. One particularly bad one shredded most of the tarpaper on the north and west faces of the Queen. While we were motivated before, the storm made us desperate. Maybe it was some sort of psychosis induced dream, but I seem to remember my wife being reduced to tears as she watched the winter rain pour down on several thousand dollars of exposed roof decking.

We finally had a roofer take the job, but two weeks later he called us back.

Roofer: "Hey, I'm sorry, but I can't take the job."

Me: "Why?"

Roofer: "I can't get a crew that will work on a roof like that. No one wants to go up on it."

Me: "Oh."

So, our search started again. In hindsight, I wonder who was shingling all of the damn French Provincial McMansions around here. Those roofs can't be any worse than ours. I guess its just the Devil Queen factor at work. The Queen just scares the hell out of most people.

My wife finally tracked down a guy Tony Anderson recommended to us. She gave him a call and explained the job to him.

New Roofer: "I guess I'd do it for $1500."

Wife: "You're hired. When can you start?"

New Roofer: "What?! Damn. I thought that bid was way too high, I didn't think that you'd actually take it."

Wife: "No, that was the best bid we have, so when can you start?"

Fortunately for us, he came out and roofed the whole thing in three days, and he did a marvelous job too. He was relieved that we didn’t want him to sort through all the different colors and scatter them evenly over the whole roof. We were fine with him laying them in whatever order he found. Someone asked him how he felt about laying a roof with all those wild colors. His answer was, "I don't give a damn what color the shingles are as long as they pay me." That is my kind of man.

For months after that, every time my wife saw the Queen she'd start singing Dolly's Parton's Coat of Many Colors. Somehow, people found a small, pregnant woman singing Dolly Parton to multicolored roof disconcerting. In case you're wondering, my wife has a very good singing voice, so there wasn't any American Idol reject factor at work.
It's amazing what shingles can do for your peace of mind.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Fire of 1906

One of the biggest events in the history of downtown Russellville was the 1906 Fire. The Russellville Courier ran this photo to commemorate the fire's 100 anniversary. The only building that is still in existance is the C & D Drugstore on the right of the photo. There is no trace of the giant hotel in the background. I think a skanky used car lot is close to the hotel's original location.

I might be dreaming, but you may be able to see one of the Devil Queen's gables in the far left of the photo. I've marked the photo below with a red dot where I think the Queen ought to be.

Whether it's the Queen or not doesn't matter too much (though it would be cool if it was), because in either case she was there and survived this bit of Russellville history. She was only three blocks away from the worst of the destruction. She would have been 16 years old at the time.

Photo Update

Kenny has been a busy. For the first time since we moved the Queen, every room has a ceiling. The master bath ceiling needs some work, but the attic is now fully partitioned from the living space. And it only took three and a half years!

The photo above is the attic scuttle in the panty. When I first inspected the pantry, I thought that Kenny had forgotten to build in a scuttle. I was wrong. He did such a good job of building it in that it is invisible. Wow.

The white flecks on the wood are bits of canvas and wallpaper hanging onto tack heads. The wood was all salvaged from a house in Atkins, and we haven't finished cleaning it up yet. I think we are going to leave the wood in its natural state. No oil, stain, or sealer.

Here is one of our two tankless water heaters. Not real pretty to look at, but there it is. I lobbied for installing these in the crawl space, but I was overruled by the wife and Charlie. They were concerned that the exposed metal (pipes and fittings) would leave the heaters vulnerable to freezing.

It is hard to tell what the hell this photo is of. It was taken from the small hall looking into the bathroom/laundry with its new beadboard ceiling in all its glory.

There is No Place Like Home

Sorry, the colors are a little funky. Instead of scanning I used my digital camera's text option. Not too bad all things considered. This is a pretty good representation of how we felt about this project not too long ago.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Why I Write Things Down

I write things down because I have the memory of a goldfish.

Once upon a time on someone's houseblog, I read about a great cleaner for dirty wood walls. I have an entire room with the original beadboard walls. They are filthy, but they've never been stained, sealed, or painted. I want to get the gunk off the walls so I can rub them down with Danish Oil.

What should I use to clean these walls with?

Urban Renewal II

You know you want to look.

I found this photo on the Russellville Courier's website. I looks like the stuff was thrown away from the business district, I think.


There are a dozen things I ought to be doing now, but I can't help myself. The Queen beckons.

Kenny is making good progress on the Queen this week. He's finished repairing the main hall and foyer, the crawlspace has two proper doors (hinges, handles, etc), and he began working on the pantry/laundry/bathroom addition behind the kitchen. The bad news is we have a lot less salvaged wallboard than I'd hoped. The good news is we have enough to finish the pantry, and we also have a lot more beadboard than I thought.

I'm definitely going to keep him on through next week, but I'm not sure if I'll keep him the week after that. First, money is an issue. I'm going to really have to scrounge to keep him for that extra week. Second, I'm not sure what exactly I'll have him do. Really, that is entirely contingent on how much he finishes by the 10th.

On the other hand, if I keep him that extra week, nearly every major carpentry project will be finished. Not all of them, but close enough to make me feel giddy. With the exception of the fireplace mess, re-facing a dining room wall with wall boards, and a few smaller projects, our Devil Queen work routine will be: strip, scrub, sand, prime, paint, and repeat. This is exciting because these are the kind of projects I'm actually sort of good at.

Urban Renewal

As part of Atkins ongoing city beautification project, an 18-wheeler carrying a load of raw chicken parts to the de-boning plant was hit by a train this morning. I guess they were looking to enhance the palpable sense of doom that hangs over the town with the actual stench of imminent death. Brilliant!

I haven't made into town to see it yet, but it ought be interesting. It's just like a car accident, except with a train. But, I've still got to look.

I wonder which way the train was bound. It could make a big difference. If it was east bound, the chickens would be thrown towards the Catholic Church and some houses. West bound would sling them towards the old train depot and the main "business" district.

Does a pharmacy, a few abandoned buildings, a restaurant, and a barber shop constitute a business district?

(In case I sound too callous here, I don't think the driver or anyone else was hurt. As for the chickens, they were already dead.)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Mutant Fig Trees

Even the local TV weathermen are starting to get a little shifty eyed about the weird ass weather we've been having. You'd think they just been caught farting at a funeral with the nervous grins, wild eyes, and hyena chuckling. This week they basically confessed that we hadn't actually had a real winter this year, and the hell with the ground hog because if we hadn't had one yet it wasn't going to happen.

If you were going to pant a fig tree in Arkansas a hundred or even fifty years ago, you'd plant it next to your house on the south face. The figs do fine in an Arkansas summer as long as you water them every day. The winters were the problem. You planted them close to the house on the south side to shelter them from the north wind a give them all the warmth the winter sun could provide. They usually died back some over the winter but survived. Even though they are technically trees, they usually didn't get any larger than a robust bush in Arkansas.

If you go to some old homes around Arkansas now, you'll notice that some moron has plant a freaking enormous tree right next to their home. The branches are rubbing on the siding and clawing a the eves. You know the roots are working their way through the foundation, and the trunk looks like it is growing out of the freaking crawlspace. What were they thinking when they planted these monsters?

Over the last 10 years or so, the fig trees have stopped dying back so much over the winter. When spring comes, they pick up right where they left off the year before, and they are getting huge. These 50+ year old fig trees are growing bigger than they were ever supposed to.

Also, according to my wife's grandparents, there were no armadillos in our part of Arkansas when they were kids. Where are all these little road kills coming from and why are they here?

But, don't worry, there is no such thing as global climate change. Happy Groundhogs Day.


Some people find newspaper clippings, sterling silver spoons, buttons, coins, or used hypodermic needles, but all I get is a rusty key and a business card. Like everyone else with an old house, I'm still hoping to find a few hundred thousand dollars worth of gold coins secreted in a wall.

I'm not sure where exactly the key was found. I think it came out of the master bathroom wall. Whatever it's made of is very light and badly corroded.

So, would you vote for this guy? I think he looks like the kind of man Stalin would like.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Joseph's Coat or The Six Hued Beast, Part 3

My in-laws had brought their truck to the auction, and they were kind enough to load what they could and drop it off at the Queen. I think they hauled about half a pallet, so that left us with around 250 bundles to move. This was definitely more than I could fit in my Saturn. Fortunately, my wife's father is a used car dealer, and, as we've gotten into the habit of doing since we bought the Queen, we went begging to borrow a couple of trucks and a trailer. Not only did he agree to loan the trucks & trailer, but he also volunteered to help us haul them.

Things didn't go how we'd planned them. When I showed up at the car lot, I found my father-in-law waiting with his 3500 Dodge (Dual rear axle & diesel) hooked up to a 16 foot car-hauling trailer.

I asked him where the other truck was. He said, "Oh, this ought to be fine."

"Are you sure? We've got four pallets of shingles to move."

"Yeah, this'll work. I just got brand new tires and everything for the trailer."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah, get in and let's go."

I shrugged and hopped into the truck. The drive up was uneventful, and we found our way to the shingles without too much trouble. Then, the marathon loading of shingles and our troubles began.

First, my father-in-law backed the trailer and truck up to the shingles. I hopped out to help him maneuver the trailer back. It didn't go too well. Diesel engines are really loud, and my father-in-law is very comfortable with maneuvering his trailer around, so he moves fast. By the time he noticed me jumping around and yelling, he'd already plowed in to a stack of shingles and sheared off all the lights on the right, rear corner of the trailer. In hindsight, I guess it was sign of things to come.

One thing that I've always respected about my father-in-law is that he is an insanely hard worker. Most normal people would have to take illegal stimulants to keep up with him. He's been known to drive non-stop to New York City to pickup a car, load it, and turn right back around for Arkansas. A flabby, little girly-man with a desk job, I really had to haul ass to keep up with him. First we loaded as many shingles as we could into the truck bed. Once we filled it, we started on the trailer.

When you're loading a trailer (or a truck for that matter), your goal is to place most of the load between the rear axles and the front of the trailer or truck bed. The load will ride better, and it also distributes the weight in the best possible way. We'd stacked as many shingles as we could on the front end of the trailer when we began to get concerned. We still had nearly a pallet of shingles left, and the trailer hitch was nearly touching the ground.

I suggested that we redistribute the load and come back for the rest of it, but he dismissed the idea.

"We're already here, lets get everything. I don't want to drag my ass back up here again."

We started stacking the remaining shingle on the back portion of the trailer, and this raised the hitch up and away from the ground. On the downside, the whole trailer and the rear end of the truck were now skimming the ground. The back bumper sagged in the middle, and I still don't know why it didn't tear clean off the truck. The trailer tires were looking all sorts of scary too. They were packed so far down that they nearly looked flat.

We climbed into the truck, cranked up the air conditioning, and drained the last of the gallon of sweet tea he'd brought. Fortified with caffeine and sugar, we began our return trip.

Ozone is in the foot hills of the Ozark Mountains, and most of our trip from Ozone to Clarksville was downhill. Our load was pushing the truck to its max. My father-in-law put the truck in low gear so he wouldn't have to ride the brake all the way down. It was a weird sensation, one that I don't quite know how to describe, but you could feel the trailer pushing the truck down the road. The transmission screamed like F-4 Phantom ridding its after-burners. It was so loud at times that you could hardly hear the stereo. The load was so heavy he had to keep on the brakes most of the way down anyhow, and you could smell them burn.

The truck could barely make 40 mph, so we took State Highway 64 from Clarksville to Russellville. We were a little ways outside of Russellville, near London, when the gas light came on with a ding. Predictably, the first gas station we came to was closed. While we were there we gave our load a once-over to make sure everything was still holding together. Fortunately, it was.

I assumed that we'd stop for gas when we got to Russellville, but my father-in-law had other plans.

"Shouldn't we stop?" I asked as we passed the Exxon station on the corner.

"No, we'll make it."

I wasn't convinced, but what the hell. I was up for an adventure.

I had recently learned about a new back road up and over Crow Mountain, and I had him turn down it.

"Are you sure this is the way there?" he asked.

"Yeah, it is," I said. Actually, I wasn't sure. I figured that there was a 3 in 4 chance that I was right. We'd find out in few miles.

We were a few miles from the Queen when we heard a tremendous "BANG!" At first I thought it might have been a gunshot.


"What was that?" I asked.

"We just lost a tire. Son of a bitch!"

He eased the truck over on the shoulder of the road. We got out and checked the truck and trailer. The rear, driver-side tire on the trailer had blown. Fortunately, the trailer had two tires on each side. We jacked the trailer up, pulled off the ruined tire so it would stop dragging, and gently lowered the trailer down. The wheel mount/axle hovered about 2 inches off the asphalt.

"Will we make it?"

He looked at the trailer for a moment. "No fucking idea, let go. I don't want to unload this shit in the dark."

The truck crept across the last few miles, every bump in the road punctuated with a gravelly scrape. I had picked the right road, we shaved a few miles and a couple hills off our trip. We turned onto our road, and the wheel mount dragged all the way down the gravel road. It looked like someone was plowing a field with the worlds smallest plow. The little furrow followed us all the way to the Queen. The truck eased to a stop and he killed the engine. I almost expected the whole thing to fall apart like they do in the movies.

Charlie happened to be up at the Queen when we got there (I forget why he was there, plumbing?).

"That's a hell of a load y'all got there," Charlie said. "I could hear y'all for miles. I couldn't figure out what that noise was. Sounded like a damn airplane or something. I didn't figure it out until you turned down the road."
The three of us started unloading the truck. It's amazing how much faster things went with one more set of hands. We finished in under an hour just as it was getting dark. While we unloaded the shingles, we estimated that we'd hauled between 4 to 5 short tons of shingles in that one load. I think that is about 8,000 to 10,000 pounds. It's amazing we didn't do more damage to the truck and trailer than blowing a tire, bending the trailer's axles, and permanently bending the rear bumper into a "V."

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