Who doesn’t remember the story of Mary Draper Ingles? Escaping from captivity, she traveled over five hundred miles back home, accompanied by a Dutch woman, who at one point drew lots with Mary to decide who was going to eat the other to prevent starvation.
Earlier this spring, I had the amazing opportunity to remodel parts of the Ingles timber frame home, which sits up on the hill from the log cabin that everyone is accustomed to seeing. The home was built in the late 1700’s and is still as stout as an ox. I turned a mud room into a bathroom and while doing the remodel, the current owner told me “Don’t worry about saving any of those boards, this room has already been remodeled, so its all new wood”. That having been said, and being watched by who said it, I quickened my pace and became less careful. That’s when the homeowner told me its from a remodel that was completed in the early 1800’s. I went back to being extremely careful with the hand-planed shiplapped chestnut.
Remodels are intrusive and loud. There is no kind way to turn an oscillating tool on in the morning. For those of you who do not know what this tool is, it’s the right hand of remodeler, but sounds like it belongs in the left hand of a dentist.
I try to quell the intrusiveness with courtesy, cleanliness, and craftsmanship. I also only invite myself into the house for the work, and if I do need to source a specialty trade, I only recommend those that I trust in my house, around my kids.
Usually by doing so, this forms a long lasting relationship between their house, the customer, and me. This relationship is kept for months and then years. Whatever the problem, if I’m unable to fix, I do what I can to find someone who can in a timely manner.
The bathroom renovation led to transforming an extra living area into a bedroom, restoring and glazing all windows, installing cattle watering systems on their farm below, and learning the history of the house, the farm, and the occupants. Who can say they got to work for a Colonel, who also just happens to be seventh generation of Ingles family, a steam engineer for locomotives, one hell of a farmer, and and even better historian? I felt like I was getting double the contract price with all of the lessons and stories. Many people around this area know of the 611 steam engine. Bud was an engineer on it and now a historian/speaker for it. After a day’s work, Bud would invite me to the front porch full of rocking chairs and tell me of the local track and how he’d navigate it, how he’d learn on the first large dip/valley in Elliston of how the train would pull and brake for the rest of the journey towards Bristol.
Driving down the road that parallels the track took on a whole new feeling for me, imagining what it would be like taking a steam engine pulling massive tonnage up this mountain and down the next.
Bud called me shortly after Christmas saying he believed he had a breaker that powers the kitchen go bad. The following day, I took my favorite partner (my son) with me to diagnose.
The trip down into the cellar to the panel box is like walking into the past. The stacked stone foundation, the timbers resting on top, the barn style doors with original hammered hardware.
Indeed, it was the breaker. This was easily determined by taking the cover off of the panel box and testing the suspect breaker for voltage out. Nothing. Being an older house with lots of upgrades over the years, there was a handful of extra breakers on the canning shelf. With my son holding the light and handing me tools as I needed, we replaced the faulty breaker. Owen, my son, went back up to the kitchen to let me know that power had been restored. As I packed up my tools and went back upstairs, I found Owen sitting at their kitchen counter giving them tips on how to make doughnuts from scratch while petting their three dogs.
It wasn’t woodwork, but we had a blast being in an amazing home with a great family.