How many of our days began like this on the homestead? The morning would be full of promise, but sometime along the way, the task we faced for that day would bring us to the end of our resources, and cause us to cry out to God. The unique and wonderful ways He answered those prayers is the meat of the story I have to tell.
There we sat, mired to our axles, and feeling indeed like the stupid greenhorns were were. The men got out of the trucks to asses the situation. My dad, Mr. Shepard and Uncle Tim, the two friends who helped drive our caravan north, and Mr. Studt, new friend and fellow homesteader who lived about 20 miles away, stomped around in the mire at the base of the hill, looking for a solution. The half frozen mud clung to their boots and began to build up until the color and style of each pair of boots was imperceptible. My brothers, Joel (15) and Jordan (11), climbed out of the van, anxious to be apart of the action. Mom’s warning to not get dirty seemed futile in this new world.
It was obvious that the truck had too much weight and too little traction. An attempt was made to pull it out with a chain attached to Mr. Studt’s Bronco, but all that did was yank off a piece of his bumper – whoops!
An old, forgotten hay bail in the corner of the meadow was shredded and thrown under the wheels to try to gain some traction. This, too, failed. Later, my father would become an expert at outsmarting the mud and getting a variety of vehicles through the slough and to the top of the hill, but not this time. We were stuck–the first, big step on our new journey had us bogged down and unable to help ourselves.
Mom could not stand the tension –she never did get to enjoy this particular version of man against the elements, so she decided to go for a little drive. The situation, coated as it was in a thick layer of mud, had quickly lost my interest, so I went along. The younger girls, including Anja (7), Olivia(5), and Anneke, just 5 months old, were getting tired of sitting still, as well, so Mom pulled off from the side of the road where she was parked and headed further down Turner St. to check out our new neighborhood.
I still remember the dull grays and browns, the bleakness of the landscape as we drove along. Later, when we learned to love our new world, we would see the ugliness of early April days as the sly predecessor to gorgeous spring weather, trees and flowers bursting into bloom as soon as the sun peeked out of the clouds. For now, though, our new neighborhood did not look very promising.
We discovered our nearest neighbors consisted of a colony of decrepit mobile homes and travel trailers, hitched along the hillside at the south-west corner of our land. Several generations and branches of the Williams family lived here, amid old demolition derby cars and piles of junk which they frequently lit fire to, sending smog up the hillside polluting our fresh, country air. We later called the place ‘Williamsburg’ just so we could stand to refer to it.
Further along, the road became gravel, with a few houses and abandoned barns doing their best to keep the hills from looking any more desolate. The most exciting moment of our little excursion occurred when we spotted some dark objects at the distant edge of a field, and guessed they were wild turkeys. At the end of Turner St., where it joined Miles Rd., we turned around to go back and check on the men.
No progress had been made, other than to decide that the only thing that would get us out of this mess and on our way up the hill would be a tractor or a backhoe. Since no one had one handy in their back pocket, the situation did, indeed, seem hopeless. And that’s when God showed up.
The rusty little car slowed as it approached our grouping of vehicles at the base of the driveway, and looked like it might stop. We caught our breath, hoping someone was about to take interest in our plight. The car sped up again, drove past the driveway, then stopped and backed up. The driver rolled down his window, pulled the cigarette from his lips, and asked,
“Do you guys need help?”
We all released our breath and sighed with relief. Yes, we needed help big time. And God showed up–big time. The two men owned a backhoe, which they were willing to go and haul all the way from their job site in Greene (15 miles South) and use to get us out of the mud and up the hill. We were amazed but grateful that they would spend the rest of their day helping complete strangers, using their own equipment, in the sleet and rain, no payment but our gratitude. They were angels in disguise, we joked, and we called them our smoking angels whenever we told the story of our first day on the homestead.
After spending all day in getting to the top of the hill, there was no time before dark to set up the tipi, so we headed back to the hotel for another night. This was our first set back, and after our a day of wrestling with nature to do such a simple thing as ‘pull into our driveway’, discouragement and doubt were already attacking my parents. Mom remembers spending that evening in panic and tears, wondering “What in the world are we doing?!!!”. Thankfully, us kids were largely unaware of the fear and tension – it was still just one big adventure, and all I remember of that night was the excitement of another night in a hotel room, and the rare treat of Burger King for dinner.
The next day we set about pitching our tipi…(Continued in Episode Three: Pitching the Tipi)