Welcome to this week’s episode called Dark Shadows. As last week’s episode was titled The Edge Of Night, you might see which direction this relocation is going. To recap from last week…
Mr. and Mrs. Jason, against the recommendation of their periodically absentee buying agent in Jefferson City, did indeed purchase a car, the car being a 1993 Buick Century…
After the nefarious deeds of real estate agents on both the buying and selling ends (the selling end being Hannibal, Missouri), our lead super-couple joyously conducted a spree of terminations. Unfortunately, the tides of good fortune were still against them…
The adjectives our tranquility seeking duo used in these ordeals aren’t acceptable for television or on automotive websites…
So we now rejoin our tormented couple, hoping for their fortunes to turn…
Note: playing the music in the video shown here does give one a taste of this dark morass. Is that a good thing or not?
If only life were more like a soap opera – many soap actors can change the fortunes of their character by sweet talking the writers. Not so with us. The dark shadows of this never-ending relocation weren’t yet in our collective past.
As stated previously, we were needing to alter our fleet and our buyer’s agent had strongly discouraged our doing so. Not to be contrary but we bought the Buick Century in the midst of this discouragement and this 2007 Ford F-150 came along less than one month later.
The pickup fit nicely into the garage of the rental house. For the pointed critiques about size often hurled at this genre of pickup, and the owners thereof, it was considerably shorter than our Ford van. We all know what a huge difference a few inches can make, especially in tight places such as garages.
We got an enviable deal on this Ford. Purchased new by Penske and used as the company vehicle of a branch manager in the St. Louis area, we obtained this Ford at a wholesale price. Mrs. Jason’s oldest brother works at Penske, knew its history, and was able to secure its sale to us.
The dark shadows of ownership were few but one came to light on the way home. This Ford’s 4.6 liter V8 was not enthusiastic about punching through the amazingly stout headwinds on I-70 that day. This cast an initial shadow upon the powertrain along with prompting some short-term buyer’s remorse. Thankfully this lack of enthusiasm was a one-time phenomenon.
In short order, the Ford was used to move us into an apartment across town from our 59 day rental house. That was the first time I pulled a trailer with it.
Not long after a tornado hit Hannibal. While our will-we-ever-sell-it house had avoided damage, the maple tree in the front yard had not. My trusty log chain plus the hooks on the front bumper allowed for easy cleanup of the brush and broken tree top.
Several months later we moved again, this time to a farmhouse west of town. This F-150 was again invaluable in this move.
All throughout this time, we were transitioning belongings to Jefferson City. Bulkier items could be secured in the bed with smaller or more fragile items packed in the interior, primarily on and under the rear seat. That F-150 was the perfect vehicle for doing so and it performed this task many times.
In our never-ending quest to dispose of our house and secure a new home, the dark shadows of a bad situation continued to cast an unsavory pallor on all of our lives.
Warning: I am about to give a combination of things both flattering and unflattering. Any negatives are about the anonymous persons only, certainly not about any profession. Any profession has low performers; we just happened to encounter an abnormally high number. If anything, it’s an indictment of some where I currently live.
In Hannibal, we had fired Agents #1 and #2, with #2 reminding me of a bobblehead. We then approached Agent #3, let’s call her Diane, who is not only an awesome real estate agent but an all-around great person.
In the meantime on the Jefferson City front, the dark shadows only continued to get darker. Our rental farmhouse had been foreclosed upon by the bank and we were now their tenants. Banks aren’t known for being landlords.
We received a letter from the bank informing us we would be getting a 30 day notice to vacate at some point in the near future. This was such joyous news.
In an attempt to make things go smoothly for everyone involved, and better assess the situation, I called the assets officer at the bank. It was Rick who had signed the letter.
During this first interaction it seemed as if Rick had a silent “P” in his name. (P?)Rick had automatically assumed and acted as if we were unsavory tenants who would steal the toilet bowls upon departure. That’s when Mrs. Jason stepped in. With a “bless your heart” in her voice, she pointed out various tidbits, such as our being serial homeowners and enlightening him about the behavior and other events to which we were being subjected in his beloved hometown.
Things went quite smashingly well with Rick after that; Mrs. Jason has her ways. Rick miraculously had a life-altering epiphany, realizing we weren’t a problem. He later told us he kept “losing” the file on the place to buy us time. In the end, Rick turned out to be a pretty decent guy.
Confused yet? This soap opera is nowhere near finished. By this point the dark shadows were everywhere. The only nugget of a bright spot was having been writing a few articles for some website called Curbside Classic, a site I had stumbled upon in late 2011.
Firing the group containing our first buyers agent led us to someone we shall call Mr. M. Mr. M is retired teacher who was selling real estate as a retirement gig.
Mr. M kept showing us houses that were absolute garbage, as in having holes through the walls. The most cost-effective remodel would have involved greasy rags, gasoline, and a book of matches. In turn, when we asked about property upon which to build, Mr. M showed us unusable parcels (think ravines) with an arrogantly ridiculous price per acre. His quoted price was grossly and gleefully out of line with other, reasonably desirable properties we had seen.
When I tired of his garbage and pointed out there was absolutely nothing to justify the quoted price, Mr. M suddenly claimed illness and referred us to another agent. In essence he fired us, which was just as well.
As a quick aside about Jefferson City…
Jefferson City (actually, the town is simply “Jefferson” but the “City” part has stuck; even city owned vehicles have “City of Jefferson” on the sides) has a population of 43,000, making it the fifteenth most populous city in the state. It was founded in 1821 as the new state capital although the town was not incorporated until 1825.
The state prison, which is just down the street from the capital building, would house boxer Sonny Liston, MLK assassin James Earl Ray, and notorious gangster Pretty Boy Floyd at various times. It opened in 1836 and closed in 2004. The old prison is now a really captivating museum.
The terrain here is a convergence. Going north requires crossing the Missouri River (as evidenced by the bridge above) and being greeted with river bottoms. Heading west is prairie and south are the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The east is an area heavily populated with descendants of German immigrants, is quite hilly and dotted with wineries.
After Mr. M fired us, we started working with Sally. Sally was very good and had been a top selling agent in Dallas. She had recently relocated to this area to be closer to family but her health took a turn. The last time I saw Sally was in the grocery store. She looked pale but was as feisty as ever, giving a blistering critique about the (lack of) integrity of various real estate practitioners in the area. She was spot-on.
Sally died soon thereafter. That was a sad situation.
Our house in Hannibal finally sold after 20 months on the market, with the first twelve to thirteen months on the market being with non-performing agents. Diane, knowing the challenge of selling a house that had become an unwelcome fixture on the market, worked miracles. As a persons, Diane is everything awesome and a bag of chips, too. We periodically sought her advice regarding the sketchy actions we kept encountering down here. Diane was frequently aghast with what we told her and helped us tremendously.
After Sally died, we tried a realtor a few miles north of here in the town of Holt’s Summit. We stated we had no preference on location, just something within a twenty mile radius of my work address. The memo must have gotten lost as the notifications they sent were about houses within Holt’s Summit and nothing else.
While helpful, its overall usefulness was limited. We let them fade away.
Someone then recommended Donelle. Donelle wrote up an offer on a house, a deal which ultimately fell through. Donelle was very responsive on all elements except one – she never provided copies of the documents we had signed, despite repeated requests. It seems they were always in her other car or she had left them at the office, with our requests always being brushed off. For over two weeks we repeatedly reminded her for these documents but never received them.
So we fired Donelle.
We then tried Sherry. We discovered Sherry via alternate sources, which still should have been a huge red flag. When we found the house we ultimately bought (yes, we had to find it), Sherry met us but never bothered getting out of her car.
We requested Sherry to write an offer to the seller. However, before doing so Sherry demanded significant money on top of her commission due to all her “hard work”. I then quoted Lyndon Johnson by telling her “Sherry, that dog don’t hunt”.
Sherry then threatened to back out if we didn’t pay.
We called Diane in the midst of this latest development. She was more aghast than normal. In conversation we realized Diane’s real estate license was good for the entire state. Diane was quite willing to come south and help us.
Perhaps Sherry thought she had Mrs. Jason and I backed into a corner. She was wrong. Since Diane was willing to travel, my response to Sherry’s threat of walking was fun to deliver. Contacting her 30 minutes after this threat, I terminated her. Her greed had backfired.
Sherry was then inducted into the burgeoning ranks of real estate agents who had messed with the wrong people.
I saw Sherry in the grocery store a while back. She obviously remembered me as she acted rather sheepish.
Reading this might make one think Mrs. Jason and I are difficult people. Really, we aren’t. However we do have a low tolerance for ridiculousness, to which we kept getting exposed.
We purchased our house with Diane’s assistance. There aren’t enough positives to fully describe Diane. She had rescued us from the dark shadows of a home that would not sell and in finding a new home one hundred miles away.
At one point Diane said she had always dreamed of attending a closing wearing a tiara and eating a box of chocolates. She got to do that with us. Diane said she wore her tiara for a week and even had some guy at the gas station tell her she must be royalty. To us, she is royalty. Diane is a big blast of sunshine on even the darkest day. She helped us to thoroughly eradicate the dark shadows that had engulfed our lives.
In retrospect Mrs. Jason and I have identified many things we could have done differently. But having Diane on our side is not one of them.
As for my red Ford pickup, it fulfilled its role fantastically during that horrible era of life. It was as reliable as the sunrise, did everything it was asked to do, and was the most versatile vehicle I have ever owned.
After driving countless miles all over creation on our house-hunt, this F-150 was then pressed into service moving our belongings to our new home.
It even pulled a deceptively heavy mini-excavator after we bought the house.
We never did take the pickup very far, although it did make a trip to Diamond State Park in southern Arkansas. Fuel mileage was usually around 18 miles per gallon on the highway but sank to a consistent 12.5 mpg if pulling any size of trailer.
While that 4.6 wasn’t the most powerful engine available in an F-150 for 2007, it did remarkably well for what it was tasked to do. Of the vehicles I have driven when pulling a trailer, this one was the best driving one when loaded that way.
That Ford had 92,000 miles when we purchased it in February 2012. By September 2019 it had around 137,000 miles and was starting to rust in the front fenders and above the rear wheel wells. Some introspection prompted me to realize I had a nice chunk of change wrapped up in a vehicle that had been accumulating less than 4,000 miles per year. With the rust setting in, I figured it was time to sell it before the cancer got out of hand and annihilated its value.
So I sold my F-150. It had served its purpose well but my purposes had also evolved.
Only twice since I’ve sold it have I wished it was still around. That’s doing pretty good.
(Author’s Note: Dark Shadows aired on ABC from June 27, 1966, to April 2, 1971.)