Sometimes in our business we run into creatures big and small. One or another of them seemed to think these old abandoned houses would make a lovely home and why not? They weren’t being used were they? We’d often start with the dirty business of cleaning up after them since their natural tendencies precluded our more modern ways of dealing with the mess. I well remember that one time though when one creature had the advantage over us. We were rebuilding a great log house on one of the eastern Muskoka lakes. At the time we took little notice of the clients’ many ways of honouring the bear. Perhaps that should be plural. She had statues of them, carvings on the walls and cabinets and many artworks and poems to them. It seems we had entered into the Land of the Bear. And here they ruled. One rainy morning I awoke and went to my Land Rover for my leather satchel that contained all of my clients house plans. Finding the driver’s door open alarmed me. Finding my back bumper smashed alarmed me more. I looked inside to find my leather seats scratched and torn. And perhaps the worst thing was that my satchel was gone. Those plans were most necessary. When I explained my problem to the client she went on to tell me, “Oh you were lucky. The neighbour next door had his whole interior torn apart. It cost him ten thousand to replace it.” That helped a lot. I told her we had to leave the job till next week, mostly because of the rain. Fortunately, ‘Big Bear’ either didn’t have a driver’s license or he hadn’t worked out how to make a key. I drove my wrecked Rover toward home. I’d gone down the road quite a way, the rain a veritable torrent now. I stopped the car, thinking. I remembered there was an orange in my satchel…which was missing. I suddenly realized he (or she) must have absconded with my favorite and the perfume of orange within. It might not be far from the building site. And I had to get those plans back. So I turned around and went back. In my rain gear I searched through the forest for quite awhile, eventually spotting white pages (soaked of course) decorating the pines and spruce trees. It took a while to round up most of them and I even stumbled onto my nice worn leather (it took decades) satchel torn to shreds (sans orange). I guessed ‘Big Bear’ had little use for houseplans. Den-living must agree with him. I returned back to the site to share my successful search. After my singular adventure with ‘Big Bear’ she calmly mentioned, “Oh, I should have told you. They know how to get into cars. You should have locked it.”
Someone advised me to see an elderly lady in the hospital in Lindsey, I forget just who now. All I was told was that she was very interested in history and antiques and wanted to share something with me. I did go to see her and I’m glad I did. She was supposedly gravely ill but the twinkle I saw in her eyes belied that. She sat up and showed me pictures of the century farmhouse she and her late husband had lovingly restored. Over our conversation it became apparent she knew quite a bit about the subject and had the will to attempt it once more. Just something small she said. It was just her and the cat and a visiting daughter once in a while. She thought I was the guy to help her do it. Her twin sister told her she was silly to even think about it, with her illness as the main reason to stay in bed. I couldn’t give her too much encouragement but I said I’d think about. At just about that time I thought to look into a small house on a farm just down the road near Cavan where I lived. It appeared to be an original settler’s home of about 26 ft. by 18 or 20 ft. I thought it had potential though it was being used as a chicken coop. I met the owner who just days earlier had thrown a guy of his property who only offered him $1000 for it. I asked him what he wanted for it. He said two. I paid him right then and there. He took me inside it and was I surprised. The chickens were living in style. Paneled wainscoting, the original fireplace mantle, doors with their period hardware and nice wide pine flooring. Even the original staircase to the second floor. Right away I thought of this one for Mrs. Harrop. I took lots of pictures and visited her the next day. There weren’t many clients who could visualize it right away. She was one. She thought it to be perfect for her. She seemed to perk up right away, all excited with the project in her mind. Her recovery was almost instantaneous. I thought she was about to jump out of bed and make me dance with her. And that’s how it went. We worked out the plan, the logistics, the timing, etc., all simple stuff to her. She found I nice vacant lot right in the middle of Lindsay. It was just right for the small house. It didn’t take much to bring the house back to its tasteful beginnings. Jewel spruced it up with wall murals and had it ready for family Christmas gatherings in no time. No, she wasn’t going to be kept down, not by anyone. She loved her little house. She called be back about three years later to add on a back saltbox sunroom to the south. She was one of the special ones for sure.