My husband and I have made a tough decision to sell our home and get out of the town we’ve both known since childhood. We met here, got married here, our kids were born here.
Not so tough a decision, really. Just today the newspaper reports the city is allowing a “tiny house village” for transients to be erected in a parking lot at a prominent intersection. When you go out around Chico – and not just Downtown – they’re everywhere. And they’re getting bold, when you don’t give them a handout, you get cursed at. If you ask them to leave you alone they say, “Or what?” We don’t leave our bike or our truck unguarded around town anymore, one of us stays behind. It’s sickening to see what’s happened to a town that I’ve known all my life.
I hate being a quitter, but it’s time to cut and run. Chico is over.
So, we have to get our place ready to sell. While the rental up front and the apartment are in pretty good shape, the back acre needs a lot of work. We have abandoned the garden and turned the water off to the orchard. There’s a big compost pile and a gi-normous brush pile to get rid of. And then there’s my kids’ “pump track”.
When the oldest was about 11, he and his 7 year old brother took flat shovels and started digging the pump track. A pump track is set up with bumps and dips. They’d got the special bike at a police auction. A modified BMX bike, it has no real seat, just a kind of post cover. You’re not supposed to sit, you pedal and pedal to get up the bump and the momentum of the down side propels you over the next bumps.
I was excited for the physical fitness aspect, but I also liked it because it constituted a legal fire break across the back acre, meaning my husband didn’t have to mow so much. As the kid’s friends started coming over to ride, the weeds got beaten down, the back acre took on an almost park like appearance.
And then they got their air soft guns. Since we didn’t want them taking those off the property, we let them set up a little range around their pump track. Of course all their friends had air soft guns too. My husband bought a bunch of welding glasses for eye protection, and we all agreed to a certain distance – no close up shots.
They made a rule among themselves – no heavy clothing, so everybody knew when they got shot.
We determined the acceptable distance by having our friend, Aaron Standish, an incredibly good sport, walk away while we shot at him. “Ow! Ow! Ow!… Okay, that’s good!”
It was his idea.
The kids built little forts and blinds out of brush, they erected targets. My husband and I set up lawn chairs on a mound of leftover construction dirt and laughed out loud as the kid’s chased each other in heated combat. “You’re dead!” “No I’m not!” “You are TOTALLY dead!”
And then they discovered disc golf. At that time there was no established course in town, except the long-time “bootleg” course located at an old game preserve – Musty Buck! – East of town. That course was a drive and it was pretty rugged, right in the ridge overlooking Upper Bidwell Park. We traveled to other courses, as far away as Glory Hole. My husband and kids decided we could have a nice course in the back acre.
They made baskets and “dinger” posts out of stuff like discarded fence posts and bike tire rims. My grandfather was a farmer who made and fixed his own equipment . He never threw away a spare part. The kids dived into Grandpa’s junk and came up with all kinds of creative targets and baskets.
They plotted out their course and played it almost daily for the next couple of years.
When my older son moved into the second unit at another rental, started working and going to school, his little brother was left to find new ways to entertain himself. He became interested in roller hockey, and when my kid’s get interested in something it becomes a family focus. We all fell into it, and life revolved around hockey for the next 5 or 6 years.
The league found their own building, which needed a lot of work, and the parents pitched in to fix it up. The had a rink to set up, but the floor of the rink – “sport court” – was pretty crapped out. They bought new flooring and the old flooring went into the dumpster. One day my husband and son realized it would still be good for something, and hauled it all out, two truck loads.
I like to see my kid’s focused on something, really care about it. So when the little one started talking about making his own practice rink in our back yard, using the old sport court, I didn’t want to discourage him. But I couldn’t visualize it, out there in the weeds and dirt clods. But he has always been a stubborn tyke. Every day after we finished home school he was out there with his flat shovel. My husband would inspect the job site every day after work. One day he brought home bags and bags of floor patch – a cement like substance spread on rough, cracked cement base before vinyl flooring is laid on it.
Once the boy had the ground flat and firm, they mixed up the floor patch and spread it, nice and thick. I couldn’t believe it – he had a sort of cement floor, over which he laid his sport court squares. He made his own net out of a section of hogwire, fastened to the ground with rebar. And it was a practice rink!
He even made his own wooden pucks – pucks are expensive, and he didn’t want to take a chance losing one in the weeds. I could hear him hitting that hogwire all the way back in the kitchen.
That property really served us well. As the city permitted smaller and smaller, yardless lots in new subdivisions, having a back yard became quite a novelty. Our kids’ friends were over here every chance they got.
But now the back acre is a swamp of weeds. Wild grapes have started making their way into the oak trees. Two of the big trees in the front yard have died and tree man wants about $1200 per tree. The property tax bill, with all the bonds, is over $6,000/year. Work work work, spend spend spend. It’s funny how something you loved once becomes a ball and chain.
So that’s why I haven’t been posting much lately. My life is kind of depressing right now. First the kids grew up, dammit! And now the house is too much to maintain.
But I’m getting used to the idea of selling. I like to move on every now and then, before the rut gets too deep. Somewhere in the back of my head I can always hear Lee Marvin warbling soft and gruff, “I was born under a wandering star…”