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Old 08-13-2014, 01:28 AM   #1
bigdirtypig OP
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A quick "hello: and reintroduction after a 4 year hiatus.

So here I am, back on advrider. A quick trip back to 2010- I had just bought a house that was a foreclosure. Not just any foreclosure, one that had been neglected and had been a frat house/party house/flop house for a dozen years. It had 12 years of overgrowth, dead leaves, liquor and beer bottles, (a couple of tons, literally) and plenty of trash strewn about it's one and a half acres.

Inside, it had 12 years of scratched floors, holes in the walls, countless dirty handprints of children and drunken young adults, a half-burnt kitchen, mold inside the walls from years worth of slow leaking pipes, busted electrical outlets, a leaking roof, tons of missing flooring and wall board, no heat or air units, even a missing window. It came complete with dilapidated, falling down outbuildings, fallen 100 year old trees, and nocturnal guest residents that wore cute little bandit masks living in the roof of the carport and the attic of the house.

Needless to say, I had years of work cut out for me. This great old house, the American Dream that was built so lovingly of native Arkansas timber and stone by a Navy Seabee when he had returned from the second World War, and lived in by he and his family for decades, kept immaculately- had been destroyed and turned into a nightmare by careless and unappreciative gen X'ers in their 20's from 1998 to 2010.

I had a Honda XR at the time. I spent all my free time (and then some) working on this house, as I was living in it. The need arose for a newer car, and the XR got traded toward a low mile used 2 year old car. The visits to this site stopped, as you have to have a bike to have an adventure ride. I grew nostalgic and regretful toward selling that bike in fairly short order, especially when Spring rolled around again in 2011. It was a wise choice, as I was compensated nicely for a bike that I had abused mercilessly, it was obviously tired at 11,000 miles when I traded it in. Burning oil, scratched and scraped, ailing at all it's joints. I turned it from a new bike to a geriatric in 2 short years.

I kept my eye open at bikes here and there over the next 4 years, getting excited about a BMW here, a Honda there, and a scrutinizing eye toward a Yamaha or an occasional KTM. But, I told myself it was just a phase, a recurring thought toward an impulse buy I would regret in the long run.

I got the old house fixed up pretty good. 2 of the outbuildings are gone, and the barn was brought back to functional as of early 2012. It was racked and rotten, with 3 holes in the roof, the smallest of which were 8 feet in diameter. I thought for quite some time I must be the biggest fool around for not pushing it over and burning it, as it would have been a bit more expense, but probably less work. I couldn't bring myself to do it, though. It was a part of this place, and a part of the Greatest Generation, as it was a decommissioned WWII army storage building the owner had bought after the war, and had disassembled and re-erected on this property. To just push it over and forget about it for a homogenized, characterless modern shop would have been disrespectful of all the hard work this special veteran made all those years ago, and downright sacrilege to remove the last remaining vessel of remembrance of all the tires he changed, cars he fixed, things he built, and good times he had in that barn. He and his wife's signature in the concrete floor still reminds me nightly of who built it, and it's importance in their now-expired lives.

"Ruth + Speed
9-19-53"


So, I kept it. I fixed it. It needed everything. It had no door. Much of the important structural beam inside was rotten from years of wetness and the wood eating insects that followed. The power lines had long since been knocked down by falling trees, and scrapped by presumably the college kids. It was very much an uphill battle, fighting in all my spare time against the ravages of time, neglect, abuse, and the elements.

I got a roof on it. I buried an oversized set of power wires to it. I even ran water line to it. Rewired it, with tons of lights and electrical outlets.

Then, I built a small business out of it. I stumbled into the demand for good, full-service, portable welding and fabricating. It was a latent talent that has proven to be in need.

So, flash to 2014. I have been working 50-60 hours a week driving a big rig. After that, I come home to do often another 4-6 hours of business related work in Speedy's old WWII Army surplus barn. I do the J-O-B 5 days a week, and the business 7 days. You need me, I'm there. But, all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy. I need to set time aside for at least small amounts of recreation, as do my entrepreneur type friends that I do this stuff with.

I led by example last month and bought an unsold 2011 WR off the showroom floor smack in the middle of Missouri- a 12 hour round trip, but worth it for $2400 off original price. I have already went through and made it run like it's supposed to. I still have yet to DS kit and plate it. The thing is stupid fast, though.

This is me, unknown to most if not all here. I am Josh. I am a flawed, but humble individual who does his very best to be the man who everyone likes to know, and never has anything bad to say about.

Hello, Advriders, and hello Arkansans.

It's good to be back!
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Old 08-13-2014, 05:18 AM   #2
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Interesting read. Wore me out tho, all that work! If only I were younger.

So, this WR you speak of, is it the 250? Or didja get sumthin a tad bit bigger? Welcome back BTW. All that work and no play for so many years, will take it's toll, time to make time for yourself and not work yourself to death, you deserve it now.
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Old 08-13-2014, 06:33 AM   #3
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Welcome back. Be great to see some before and after pics of your place. As someone who renovated an old house once and swore never to do it again, I applaud your efforts.
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Old 08-13-2014, 07:16 AM   #4
DrLewall
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The one thing I learned by building my own house is, I learned to appreciate a contractor!
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Old 08-13-2014, 11:44 AM   #5
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Thanks for the kind words, fellas.

The place screamed out at me to save it. It was the first house I went to see on a list, it was the one that looked the most "me." I had just entered the market again after struggling for an entire year to buy another house that was historic and distressed- I was very discouraged, but hoping for the best with this one. It literally fell right into my lap, the paperwork part went so smooth, it was obvious it was meant to be.

It was so neat to see the signatures and techniques of the man who obviously loved this place so much, and to see the similarities in the way both of us thought.


Guess who came rolling up the driveway on a hot summer day in 2010? None other than a 93 year old Speedy himself! I was both ecstatic and shocked to see not only that he was still alive, but was still sharp as a tack

I had quite a few good conversations with the man- and was able to attend his 95th and 96th birthday parties.

On New Years Day of 2013, while still in remarkable health, Speedy took his afternoon nap and slipped off into the afterlife at 96 years old.

I'll have to round up some photos, past and present tonight when I get home to a real computer. Unless some things have changed, photos have to be shared from a hosting site, which is a bit of a pain in the ass, but I'll do it.

People love the uniqueness of this place, and the rich history of it.
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Old 08-13-2014, 12:05 PM   #6
bigdirtypig OP
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Oh, yes- and the WR I bought is a 450. We have been looking for a 250 for my nephew, as he is 140 pounds of solid muscle. He doesn't need the extra cubes my fat ass does.
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Old 08-13-2014, 03:18 PM   #7
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I not going to say this thread is worthless without pics but I would really like to see some pics of the renovation and the surplus shop you overhaulled

Good on you catching up with Speed Sounds like he was "The Man"
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Old 08-13-2014, 09:36 PM   #8
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The man: well ok, the baby. Circa 1918.



In the Navy Seabees, photo circa 1942.



Family time, mid-50's. The little girl in the photo is now in her 60's.



Speedy and his obvious adoring wife, Ruth, late 80's.



Speedy catching some fresh air at his daughter's, circa 2011.



Speedy at his 96th, and final birthday party, August 2012. He remained 100% himself all the way to the end. A hopeless optimist, an intent and interested listener, with insight and wisdom a century old. He always had a grin, a joke, and a twinkle in those ancient blue eyes. This was the last time I had the pleasure of seeing him.

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Old 08-13-2014, 10:04 PM   #9
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The place. I've got 99 problems, and trees are 100 of em.



There were several trucks full of leaves and debris in the WWII era army storage building I rambled on about earlier.



About half of the roof had turned back into topsoil. It was bad.





Started building scissor trusses in place to make head room in case I put in a car hoist someday.







Replaced the rotten overhead beam so the trusses had something solid to land on.



Next was to prop up what was left of the roof and tear out 20' of the rear wall, which was so rotten, it had collapsed down nearly a foot from it's original height.





And finally, roofing it in.


Now it's a functional shop, complete with running water.





Looks like a rickety old shop building, but it took this in the 80's with only minimally being racked out of square. Not bad for a stick frame building!



Last but not least, Speedy not looking thrilled about shoveling snow, 1950's. Shop is in the backdrop.

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Old 08-13-2014, 10:39 PM   #10
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The house. built in 1947 after he returned from the war (stationed in Japan) from rock excavated at Camp Robinson. Nothing beats free building material!

1950's. Notice the stylish Shoebox Chevy roofline in the carport. He remembered that car well.




Christmastime in the 50's.



Childhood fun, 60's style. On the back patio.



Living room, 2010.





Living room now, plus a few friends and family.



Kitchen in 2010. Cabinets were rotten and ceiling was burnt out from a fire. This photo was taken after I had already started sealing everything, or you'd see the smoke damage.



Found a working 1947 Westinghouse fridge in remarkable shape, fits right in this kitchen with all the era-correct original appliances.





Downstairs bath destruction with complete plumbing and framing replacement. Walls were full of mold.





Downstairs moldy bedroom before and after.





Upstairs bath. The only thing really tired was the vanity, toilet, and plumbing. The rest is vintage 40's tile including glass block floor to ceiling.











No castle is complete without dragons!!










Speedy happily laying Spanish tile on one of the patios.



Home sweet home, a work in progress.

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Old 08-14-2014, 04:47 AM   #11
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wow..thats allot of work! TNX for the pix, AWESOME!
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Old 08-14-2014, 04:59 AM   #12
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Very nice! Hope to meet you when I come over to ride with y'all!

RIP Speedy.
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Old 08-14-2014, 11:13 AM   #13
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Stories like these are why I love ADVrider.

My Uncle Bob was a SeaBee of the same era, and he helped make me the gearhead I am today. I am glad Speed got to see the old place come back from the brink.
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Old 08-15-2014, 08:55 AM   #14
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Wow, what a beautiful home! Great job.
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Old 08-16-2014, 02:20 PM   #15
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Thanks again, guys.. It's a story I love to tell, and was very blessed to have been able to meet the man and the family who made the story. Speedy was very depressed about the disrepair his home had fallen into. He moved in at the guest house at his daughter's place 4 years after his wife had passed in 1998. He was getting up there in age, and was dealing with advancing macular degeneration. He still had some of his peripheral vision, but everything directly in front of him had gotten cloudy.

He turned up with his caretaker driving him one day about 2 months after I had bought the place, and was tickled pink to see that someone was finally doing their best to reverse the 12 years of chaos it had endured. This place was literally at the tipping point where if it had went unoccupied much longer, it would have been too far gone to save. At least one homeless person had been staying on the property, and foolishly Deutsche bank (the loan holder) had the electricity and water still turned on! The place had been empty for nearly 2 years. Talk about open season for squatters!!

Speedy had been down in the dumps for years about what his house had become- he spent decades carefully laying ton after ton of rock. The place is overflowing with it. His caretaker would bring him by the place from time to time, and describe what she saw to him in the places he could no longer access, or that his limited vision could document.

Seeing his life's work revitalized gave him much closure at the end of his life- to see someone acquire it that not only came from the same walk of life as he did, and had the skills to bring it back without erasing it's character or past- but the new owner having the same love and appreciation of what he built as he did.

Speedy was blue collar all the way- he grew up in Beebe, Arkansas, and was a go-getter from the start. He was a bicycle courier in his hometown, where he was labeled "Speedy-" a name that stuck much more prominently than his birth name throughout his entire 96 years.

He enlisted in the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and used the building trades he used as a Seabee for the rest of his life. When I inquired about what inspired him to go so overboard with this place, why he went so elaborate, and worked so much harder than to build a conventional home- he reply was the usual wittiness- "It was a whole lot easier to build than what we did overseas.. Here, I wasn't under fire!"

The architectural style is one that he took from when he and his wife were stationed in L.A- low, flat rooflines, huge plate glass windows, modern, angular shapes. The first thing my Dad mentioned when he visited the place (before I met Speedy) was "This was built by someone from Southern California.."

He wasn't that far off.

After the war, he built this place. Originally it was a small 2 story dwelling, he and his wife lived on one floor, and his brother in law and sister lived upstairs. There was a kitchenette in each, and the only access to the upstairs was the one outside in the photos. It was basically 2 small apartments. The kitchenette upstairs was eventually turned into a massive master closet. (The closet is bigger than my bedroom was growing up.)

He added the kitchen and sunroom on in the 50's after his sister and BIL had moved out. He also added a utility room and indoor staircase. Now, it was a big 2 story single family home.

He had his own small trucking company back then, and moved alot of houses. This was back when there was no "permit loads-" and scary enough, the state required you move the houses at NIGHT. He recalled a night when a drunk chased them down as he was trucking a house down Asher avenue- the drunk thought he was seeing things and losing his mind- he pursued them to make sure he wasn't hallucinating seeing a house floating down the road.

He dropped out of the trucking thing as a main source of income in the 60's, going to work for Missouri Pacific railroad as a brakeman. His wife worked as a nurse. He worked and saved, and they eventually retired with a very nice nest egg that would last through the rest of their days.

He was a trucker, I am a trucker. He was a welder/fabricator, so am I. He was a builder/carpenter, so was I when I was younger. I also wanted to work the railroad long before I met him, but it hasn't happened yet.

Speedy and I clicked immediately when we met, in spite of nearly 70 years of generation gap. His family all moved on to privileged lives as doctors and such. He was just an old dinosaur that came from a different world where people were hands-on and can-do. His daughter told me how excited and happy he was when he knew I was coming to see him. He and I could talk for hours- whereas in his family, nobody understood him, cared about the things he did, or the humble, salt-of-the-earth came from nothing generation he was from. He would get out months worth of conversation every time I saw him, happy to be greeted with a callused handshake from a younger version of himself.

Funny how things seem to work in parallels.

Like I mentioned in the beginning- the whole experience fell into my lap so easily and almost entirely by accident.

It's just one of those things that happen once in a lifetime.
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