Who Owns This Dump?

By Mike Johnson

It’s 2012. The pickup’s 260 air conditioning blows just enough heat off my skin to make it pleasant. Two windows down, 60 miles per hour.

Laddie happily leans out his side of the cab. Wind, like water, pins his border collie face tight, shrinking the size of his skull and snout.

The rear of the truck is stuffed with our farm’s demo junk right up to the topper’s roof.
We’re off to the dump, 35 miles up the road.

It’s a Minnesota summer morning. We’re happy tired, me the laborer, Laddie herding the activity. Bare arm on the door frame, my mind is on the TruMoo chocolate milk chilling at the next town’s convenience store.

I’ve been here long enough to know the resident shortcuts along unmarked roads, connecting farmsteads hidden by oceans of corn. This knocks a good 14 miles off the distance.

We bought the 6-acre fixer-upper in late 2011, then left it empty over the winter. This is our first summer here. Everything is still new. We’re still fresh on the farm. Fresh in the “town” of 52 residents. Fresh in the state.

I’ve been away from Minnesota for 35 years. But in boyhood, I lived in the Minneapolis suburbs. Farm country is very different.

Big things are familiar. The sports teams. The town names. The food. Regional businesses. It’s a pleasant reunion with randomly triggered childhood memories.

Yet so much is new. It’s a stimulating way to live.

And everything is so inexpensive. The farm was only $80K. A sports bar on the corner is listed for just $60K. We saw a nice lakefront house for $110K. The town with my chocolate milk is advertising a small, tidy house for $18K.

Tradesman like plumbers and electricians charge half the rate of our Wyoming town.

This taught us a huge "retirement extender" that we may one day apply: move to a small, rural town far from big cities, coasts and mountains. The more agriculture related, the better.

The Red Barn Farm is looking better every day. We imagine our improvements through the eyes of the mail lady. She drives up our block-long driveway six days a week, circling between the granary and the farmhouse to align with our mailbox, five steps from the mudroom door. She sees piles of junk disappear. Weeds whacked. Trees trimmed. Buildings painted. Multiple tradesman vehicles.

Who are these people? From our mail, she knows us better than the neighbors, who are asking the same questions. After being so public in Wyoming, anonymity is so liberating. Nobody yet knows us anywhere here.

We beautifully completed the rehab and sold the property in 2013. Then added our favorite farm elements to our Wyoming homestead.

It was an amazing adventure. I miss the farm. I miss that old pickup. I miss the dump runs. I miss Laddie.

Freshness. Adventure. Freedom. This is the best way to live.

I was late to this realization.

Laddie knew it all along.


More adventure:

Laddie is Missing!


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