Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Brother; My Hero

Upon receiving the cash from the insurance company and informing my brother who lives in Farmington AR with his family, we began planning the conversion of our 396 sqft work shop/barn into a cottage. Roland came down in his RV, parked it in our driveway, and with his tools, skill, and hardwork, made the shop liveable within the week. Wood walls, insulation, windows, doors, bathroom, plumbing, bedroom, and electric. The pictures posted show Roland working hard, and me standing around watching. Not particularly skilled in building of any kind, it was faster with me assisting him rather than doing something wrong. Out of all the people that helped us during this time of massive transition, Roland, his wife Jennifer, and his two girls gave us more than we could have hoped for - a home.

Rebulding Begins

Spending two weeks in an extended stay hotel, where they charge you $3.00 for a roll of camping quality toilet paper, extra fees for dishes and the use of the laundry mat, and must inspect your room before you check out, cured us of our thoughts of taking our insurance company for up to $16,000 in living expenses. We took advantage of our time off from normal life to look at our possibilities. The first was to stay in hotels until we could contract someone to rebuild our 1700sqft house. The second, find a property to rent until we could rebuild. The third, take the insurance settlement and make a down payment on a new property. We began looking in our area and in Little Rock for properties we could make our home, even if for a temporary arrangement. We quickly tired of that. It was clear that Realtors need be expert marketers and photographers because every property we looked at fell short of the quaint country cottages and verdant green pastures depicted on their website ads. Staying in hotels was not going to be an option for us. Buying new or renting was not an option. Perhaps, we thought, we could live in an RV on the property until we could rebuild.

On the way back home from one of our house hunting trips (we went to see a 10 acre property in Solgahachia AR - pronounced sog-a-hatchie by the natives; what promised, from the photos, a small one story house, a hatchery, and 10 acres of property, but what delivered, a small shack, a rusted out poultry barn, scrap metal, old cars, and a 10 acre parcel butted right up to Highway 9 [the highway was the front yard] and extending back behind that house at a 30 degree grade, almost straight up to the pinnacle of a flat topped hill) we were at a loss for what to do. Patt then suggested that we live in our shop on our property for at least a year until we could decide what to do. We both teared up - call us crazy - but it just felt right. We settled with our insurance company. Basically we offered them a deal to pay us what we thought it would take to convert our shop into a home, in exchange for foregoing the total allowance for living expenses they were on the hook for. In retrospect we should have negotiated for a little more but all in all that got us out of a hotel and as you will see in the next post, well on our way to having a home of our own again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

February 12, 2010 7:00 AM


We pull out of Waco and immediately encounter light snow. By the time we made it to the I-20 exit south of Dallas, traffic was in a grid lock and snow was falling heavily. We kept pressing on. By a little after noon we made it to Hope AR and the snow stopped and the roads cleared. By the time we made back to our home-site in Perryville, we had imagined the worse, gotten our grief out of the way, and strangely the sight of the wreckage of our home, though startling, was not as bad as we expected. However, eveything was gone. Only the second story over the basement was recognizeable. The 2006 Dodge Charger in the carport was nothing but the sheet metal chassis. The wreckage was still smoldering. We picked up Ronny from my parents, visited the insurance agent, and checked into a hotel for the start of cleaning up our lives and getting back to as normal as possible.

February 10, 2010 10:00 PM

Still outside the Starbucks in Schertz TX a good 12 hours from home, trailer damaged, house burned down, after 48 hours on the road travelling more than 1200 miles, I pulled out my trusty tool box that had a much larger part to play in this drama that was unfolding. After a good 30 minutes of trying to bend the fender frame out away from the trailer tire to no avail, it became clear that we would have to disassemble the fender to get back under way. This was easy enough to do until we saw that the fender lights were hardwired into the light assembly and we would either have to cut the cable, thus further damaging this rented trailer, or Patt came up with the solution of justdetaching it as much as we could and throwing into the passenger seat of Aaron's car (satan) and then closing the door. This done we were back on the road. With still a long way to go and our heading into a forecasted snow storm around Dallas, we were under way once again. During this portion of our trip we discussed possible causes for the fire. Patt said, well I recently started praying again.

"What did you go and do that for" says I.

"Well I told God that when I start praying things start happening in our lives. So I told Him that He would just have to show us something."

"What did you go and do that for?" Says I.

"Maybe it was the heat lamp on the carport...", says she.

"No, I unplugged it.", says I.

"I plugged it back in" says she.

"Oh." says I.

"There's no way it could have fallen against the house. I had set your red tool box on the cable so it wouldn't slip off the table" says she.

"You mean the red tool box I put in the back of the truck before we left, in case we needed it for something like disassembling the fender off a rented Uhaul car dolly?"

"Oh", say she.

We finally stopped for the night in Waco TX at a hotel just off the campus of Baylor University. Surprisingly we slept very well.

February 10, 2010 6:00 PM


With just a little more than an hour to spare we were able to drop Aaron and his friends off at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio TX to begin their in-processing. Patt and I breathed a deep sigh of relief and with Aaron's car still in tow we headed north on I-35. We would attempt another long distance drive to try to get home, or at least get as far as we could. The possibility of snow the next morning in Dallas played into this decision, as well as our desire to just get home after 48 hours on the road in this mad dash around the mid south.

February 10, 2010 6:30 PM

We made it just a little more than 30 minutes up the road and as we entered Universal City TX Patt's cell phone rang. It was Ronny our 17 year old.

"Mom. The house burned down"

Back in Perryville AR, snow and ice had set in soon after we had left. Snow still covered the ground and Ronny was standing out in it, barefoot, watching his home burn down. The Pastor and his wife, from Antioch Missionary Baptist Church across the street, had come to take Ronny home with them until Ronny's grandparents could get by to pick him up.

Meanwhile, on the road, I stopped for fuel and Patt made calls to our friends and family. Tears and anger and angst and the obligitory question "Why us?" started popping up. We still had a long way to go. So refueled, we headed north trying desperately to get back "home".

9:00 PM - knowing we needed to make a long drive we decided to stop to get coffee. By this time Patt and I started feeling a general peace with the situation. What could we do otherwise? Keep Calm Carry On. It turns out that the little red notebook was invaluable in our taking notes, jotting down claim numbers and phone numbers, making lists of things to do, etc. Now back to getting coffee. Not just any coffee would do and if you know Patt, you can guess where we had to stop. We stopped at the first Starbucks we came to. I pulled Patt's big truck towing Aaron's car into the miniscule parking lot of this establishment, obviously made for yuppies driving Mini Coopers or Prius, pulled around the alley in the back after dropping her off at the door. As I was pulling around the building Patt's Big Black Dodge hesitated a little (Dodge's with HEMIs don't hesitate as a general rule). Feeling the tug towards the back of our rig I stopped. I tried backing up-went no where. I tried going forward - no go. Upon inspection, I found that the passenger side fender of the car dolly was hung up on the concrete post protecting the corner of the building for just such an occasion. I've learned, when in the midst of a situation where standing still is not an option, going backward can't be done, yet going forward will be messy and painful, there's not much choice. I hopped back into the truck and for better or worse, I stepped on the gas pedal. The raw power of the 5.7 Litre Hemi slowly and surely yanked the trailer up onto one wheel, scraping along the posts, and set it down quietly in the middle of the driveway. Thinking the worst was over, I attempted to straighten the rig out and get it positioned to enter the access road to I-35. Once again stepping on the gas I noticed a hesitation and the smell of burning rubber. Turns out, the fender of the car dolly had been bent onto the tire. We were dead in the water. We weren't going anywhere.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

February 8, 2010

Monday: We get a call from our son Aaron who was making his way from Pensacola FL with two friends on their way to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonion TX for some additional training. The three had been in Pensacola for some time and Aaron had bought him a mid-90s Dodge Neon which we have come to call 'Satan'. Aaron's Neon broke down in Nowhere AL about 30 minutes east of Mobile. It was 8:30 PM on a cold, stormy night when we took the call. He was stranded. His friends had stayed with him to try to help get the car fixed (timing belt broke) and had finally given up hope.

With all of their gear, there was no way to stuff everyone into the second car they were driving so they rented a hotel room to wait for help. With a snow storm fastly approaching Western Arkansas we had to decide whether to try to beat the whether and leave right then or to head out the next morning. We decided to leave right then and packed 1 change of clothes some blankets and coats. So with nothing but that and the clothes on our backs I loaded up my red tool box (thank God for the tool box), unplugged the heat lamp on the carport, we hopped in Patt's Dodge Ram pickup and headed south, leaving Ronny, 17, at home to watch the house and farm full of animals: geese, goats, rabbits, chickens, hogs, cats, and dogs. It started snowing heavily as we approached Little Rock but by midnight that night, we finally broke through the front in northern Louisiana. We drove straight through in shifts and arrived at Aaron's hotel east of Mobile AL, around 10 on Tuesday morning.

After a Cracker Barrel breakfast with Aaron we started shopping around for a car dolly to load Satan . Our plan was to drive as far as we could before stopping for the night, dragging Aaron's car behind us, followed by his friends in their car. About 3 PM we headed west on I10 towards San Antonio. We ended up stopping in New Orleans for lunch and finally, after more than 24 hours on the road we booked a hotel room in Galveston TX. Because Aaron and his friends had only until 6 PM Wednesday night to check in at Fort Sam we headed out early the next morning for the final long haul.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

February 5, 2010

Boyd conducts an annual retreat for his clinical engineers at Arkansas Children's Hospital. The theme of this retreat is Keep Calm, Carry On, and Never Ever Give Up. The challenge Boyd laid them was this:
"When you feel like giving up or when you find yourself in a stressful situation, Keep Calm, because a clinical engineer should be able to bring peace to any situation. Carry On because your customer still needs a solution to their problem. And Never Ever Give Up because the sick and injured children that come to the hospital never ever give up.

As a reminder, Boyd gave them small, red, metal-clad notebooks with spring-loaded covers with the Keep Calm Carry On message emblazoned in white. This message was originally part of a campaign by the British government during the blitzes of WWII reminding their populace to keep a firm upper lip when things looked bleak and still holds significance for Boyd and Patt today because little did they know, as Boyd called an end to another successful year at the hospital that this notebook would become invaluable to them over the next 3 months - as much for the pen and paper they needed as the message on the cover - Keep Calm, Carry On.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Story Starts

Hello out there! Coming soon is a link to our website, photos, and the complete story on how Boyd and Patt Hutchins came to be where they are now...coming to grips with their "is-ness". The whole story in upcoming posts - learning to live small, give more than one takes, and learning just how to "be".