This is a quick dose of personal history this month, instead of our usual story on more general history in the county.
It comes up because we Offenburgers are putting an addition on our farmhouse southwest of Cooper, a ground-floor bedroom “for when you get to be too old to climb our steep stairs,” as my wife, Carla, put it. As I watched builder Justin Towers and his dad, Tim Towers, working on it the other day, it occurred to me that it was 10 years ago this summer when we bought “the old Travis place,” as everyone called it then. We now call it “Simple Serenity Farm.”
The house, then 103 years old, was a real fixer-upper. Previous owners Scott and Shari Carroll had gutted it and were just starting their own floor plan. They were doing all the work themselves and were worn out on it. The barn and two sheds were in worse shape. We bought the buildings and the three acres around them for $35,000, which should tell you a lot.
People thought we were nuts. “I’ve seen you Offenburgers do a lot of crazy things over the years,” then-Gov. Tom Vilsack said, “but this tops them all.” Carla’s mother, Sue Burt, against our advice, drove up to see the place for the first time on the day we “closed” on the purchase. She brought a couple friends from Des Moines with her, too. They evidently were all shocked.
“Well,” said Sue, “you and Chuck have always had a lot of faith.”
Judy VonAhsen, our real estate agent, made the deal for us. She said she’d get her husband, Gary, then the president at Tri-County Lumber, to serve as the general contractor on the house rehab. We wondered later if she asked him if he’d do that, or just told him. Gary guided the Gettler Brothers — Steve, Russ and Tim — and they worked construction magic on the place.
We’ve lived well beyond the farmstead, of course. We’ve loved being part of Greene County life, especially at a time when there seems to be so much progress. And when we come home to the farmhouse, it’s like our little retreat. In fact, it’s like living in the middle of a great big picture that changes just a little bit every day.
Ten years. What an adventure. Can we get 10 more?
Chuck Offenburger is a member of the Greene County Historical Society board of directors. You can write him at chuck@Offenburger.com.