No Free Rides
It’s been a busy week around the cabin.
The brother and his family are in town and despite the weather, we’ve managed to get a lot of work done around the farm. It’s nice to see his ugly face.
Occasionally I get a negative comment from someone that essentially can be summed up as I’m just a spoiled rich kid that couldn’t hack the real world and went crawling back home to my rich parents. These comments come from the fact that within my Cabin People videos I’m driving a fairly new truck, have a fairly new tractor, a Wood-Mizer sawmill and a farm. I seldom try to defend myself from those comments because in social media land there are people simply known as trolls who simply try to start fights online. I don’t give them any attention because they don’t deserve any. (I think they just need a nap… or a hug) But some people have honest doubts and I don’t mind addressing them. If they believe we somehow got a free ride then it can cause them or others to doubt their ability to go down the same path because they don’t believe it to be an honest path.
I want to talk about that now. The free ride question.
It’s difficult for me to even write this without laughing, because anyone who thinks my parents gave us a free ride, obviously doesn’t know my parents. We moved to this community when I was two. My dad wanted to raise his kids in the small town he was raised and get away from the problems they’d seen in larger cities they had been living in. So they bought a small farm and rural life began. Both my parents were college educated, my dad worked from home as a produce broker and my mom was an elementary school teacher. They taught my brother and me to think and work. They kept clothes on our backs and food in our stomachs. Some years were harder than others. In the mid 80’s they had the chance to purchase a larger farm, so we did and eventually sold the small farm and relocated. Everyone worked. Everyone did their part. The dumbest possible thing you could say around my parents was that you were bored. I remember driving a tractor at midnight on school nights during planting season and we spent our summers hauling hay, building fences and walking rice fields levees while our friends took long vacations and went fishing.
When I wasn’t working on the farm, I mowed yards for money. In 1990, when I was old enough to drive, my parents’ gave me my grandfather’s old 77 El Camino. It hauled me and my lawn mower all the way through high school and college. Though it spent most of college parked because I discovered a bicycle got much better fuel milage and didn’t break down as much. Like my brother, I paid my own way through college… with the help of a couple of small scholarships and federal student loans. Somewhere in all of that, my parents did what several previous owners were unable to do with the land, they were able to pay off the farm.
Now fast forward a dozen or so years.
I’ll skip most of the details, but the short of it is, we had both been working jobs that required too much and paid far too little early in our marriage while still having the expenses of a couple that should be making more. We both went back to school to help give ourselves an edge. Bills racked up, income couldn’t keep up. I would lay awake at night wondering how I was going to pay the bills. I was good at my job as the state communication director for a mainline denomination. But the problem was that I was making half of what my peers in other states were making. I had several out-of-state job offers, but wanted to stay in Arkansas and so I tried repeatedly to get a raise with no luck. I eventually quit after they told me they couldn’t afford to pay me more and then two weeks later they hired a guy in the office for almost 4-times my salary. I couldn’t handle the insult any longer. I went to work for myself doing freelance communication and working in the newly budding world of social media. Things started picking up. Money started coming in. I slept better at night. We wanted to move to the farm. I bought a tractor and a sawmill to start the process. Or at least I started making payments on them.
And then the world came crashing down in 2008.
Mostly I’ve covered this stuff in the past, so I don’t really feel like I need to go into too much depth about the crash. What I think is important to talk about is the mindset we took.
Neither the Lady or I came from families that piled on the latest fashions, new cars, or latest electronic gadgets. Both of us came from families that instilled strong work ethics and personal responsibility in their children. We knew we were expected to work for a living. Gifts that I value greater than anything money could have purchased.
We’re not quitters and we’re not the kind of people who sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We weren’t about to roll over, declare bankruptcy and lay down and die. We scaled down everything we could. We didn’t buy clothes, we hardly ever ate a meal outside of the house. We had no cable TV and we got rid of our phone. We also both took on extra jobs. I managed to flip a part-time teaching job at the university into a full-time gig which helped tremendously, but I also started revamping my freelance communication and began looking for customers for extra income. It was slow at first. In a bad economy one of the last places companies want to spend their money is on communication.
Secondly, the sawmill and tractor. They weren’t paid for. I had to make payments on them and so I could look at them as a burden or an asset. I chose asset because I could use them to get myself out of the problem I was in. I wanted to get rid of my house payment, so I used them to start the cabin. I had to give myself something that looked like a way out. The cabin was a path to an end of everything that brought us to that point. The cabin was a way to make all of that other junk we’re told we’re supposed to have irrelevant. The extra money I made each month was used to pay off bills and the rest went toward the construction. It’s one of the reasons it took us four and a half years to complete it, because we refused to put a dime of the cost on a credit card. My old truck also gave up after a decade and 250k miles. I had to have reliable transportation for work and the farm, so I took on another client to offset the expense.
And so here we are five years down the road and in a much different place in life. One thing I can say that helped tremendously was having access to land we could build on. But, it wasn’t the defining factor. Someone could do what we did and purchase land. Really, all they would need is a few good acres and some rawhide tenacity.
So the lessons to be learned here is that tenacity will get you a lot farther than anything and there is good debt and bad debt. Bad debt, is when you can’t use the thing you purchased to help move you further along. Good debt is when you can. I walked into a Western Auto when I was 14 and convinced the owner to let me finance an $80 gas weedeater over a few weeks. I used that weedeater through college mowing lawns for people. It paid for itself over and over. The same thing with the tractor and sawmill. (BTW…It and the sawmill are completely paid off now) And though the cabin is complete (and 100% debt free), I use them both regularly for repairs and additions to the farm and will continue to do so for years to come.
So what do you want to spend your money on? You’d be surprised at how fast, things turn around when we focus on the things that move us forward and give up the things that simply keep us pacified.
In the meantime… live well… laugh often… love always.
The spoiled little rich kid.. a.k.a. “Billy”