The 'stilts' leaning near the wall have exceeded Howard's expectations in facilitating the finishing of drywall.
He discovered them on a local craigslist post and made arrangements to collect them.
The owners gave him their address in the next town which he entered into the GPS app on his phone.
I was invited to ride along, as did Jim and of course, Howard's dogs.
The precise directions delivered in the cultured tones of 'Siri' took us along familiar routes and then directed a left hand turning onto a side road. This was quickly followed by another turn onto a narrow one lane track. Although a bit unexpected, such back roads aren't uncommon here.
The track followed the bends of a steep-banked creek; clear brown water danced and dappled in the sunlight which pierced the tangle of bare branches overhead.
The road crossed the creek bed at several points, again not uncommon in rural Kentucky.
I was ensconced in the back seat on the side where I had a good view of the creek bank. I remarked that the route seemed an unlikely one, but the men were jovial.
"Can't back up, no place to turn around, so on we go, " replied Howard the driver.
The track ran out at last onto a more civilized road; Siri guided us across a narrow bridge and into the back yard of a simple white farmhouse.
A slender grey-bearded man was loading items into the back of a pickup; a tall woman emerged from the garage, faded tawny hair cascading below her shoulders. Around them danced a throng of barking dogs, whose tails wagged in greeting.
Katy and Dixie answered them adding to the canine cacophony.
Jim and Howard descended from the truck, hands reaching to pat and reassure the dogs
Whenever I'm invited along on errands I have either a book or a pile of magazines to occupy me during what can become extended waiting.
Katy and Dixie subsided and I settled back, enjoying the antics of the resident dogs.
There were four of them; an elderly Golden Retriever, shaggy and white muzzled; a busy black lab; a comical small caramel-colored creature of indeterminate ancestry. The 4th dog was black with white on his chest and missing one front leg. He lurched gamely about in the milling throng. Every few moments the man stopped his work to speak to the dogs, pat the nearest head.
I sat in the sun, turning the pages of a magazine, absorbed in the photos detailing the renovation of a country home.
After a time I wondered what was taking so long. Howard and the slender man were conversing, Jim and the tall woman were out of sight. Immersed again in my magazine, I didn't notice Jim approaching the truck and was startled when he tapped on the window.
'You have to come in and see this house!'
I landed on the spongy ground beside him, automatically putting out a hand to the exuberant young dog.
'Why do I need to go in?'
The woman was waiting at the back door. She had smoothly chiseled features, fine lines at the corners of eyes and mouth, stood tall in faded jeans and a warm quilted jacket.
A short entry hall led into the main house.
I looked about appreciatively.
Dark pine floors, walls painted the color of bleached linen.
Upholstery, cushions, accessories, all mirrored the rooms in my favorite magazines.
I admired a reproduction primitive hutch.
'My ex-husband made that, made most of the furniture. I'm putting the house on the market, fully furnished.' A tinge of bitterness crept into the quiet New England voice. 'Twenty eight years. I'm not taking anything with me as a reminder.'
We finished the tour of the house making neutral conversation: houses, the work of building and restoration, mentioned the New England museums where our mutual love of early American houses and furniture had been nurtured.
We stood outside, the five of us, the four dogs, in the bright sun, in the rising wind.
There was in that random meeting a sense of fleeting recognition.
I patted the dogs again, the gallant three legged chap, the little bouncing minx.
The men shook hands, I thanked the woman for showing us her house.
The gentleman's eyes were kind beneath the blue bandana that covered his hair against the dust of his tasks. Glancing from me to the dogs, he laid his hand lightly on my shoulder as he said goodbye, acknowledging, I think, the kinship between all those who love animals and country places.
We've spoken several times, Jim and I, of that farmhouse with its gracious, somehow familiar rooms.
Had it been on the market 6 months ago would we have offered on it, or would we have seen the folly of taking on [again!] a five bedroom house, spaces so much larger than we need?
I've thought of the big kitchen, warmed by a wood-burning range. No central heat or air, so much to keep and maintain. Not far away if one drives the correct roads, but away from the neighborhood where we chose to remain and build this one last home.
I wonder who will live there--who will cherish the white farmhouse of many rooms so charmingly styled by other hands.