The American poet, critic and editor James Russell Lowell (1819-91) once said, "Creativity is not the finding of the thing, but the making something out of it after it is found." A perfect example of this came to me in the mail a short time ago when I received a letter from Peggy Patrick, who lives near the Red River about 60 miles north of Dallas. She and her husband, Pat, read my column in the Gainesville Daily Register in nearby Gainesville.
To give you some brief background, I wrote a column several months ago titled "You Can Create Your Own Lodge," and it prompted Peggy to write. Peggy and her husband had done just that and she sent me the photos so I could see what their structure looked like. After I had a chance to look at all the photos and read her account of how their lodge (or "Mountain Retreat," as she called it) was created, I just stood there and shook my head in amazement. There is something really special about their creation, and I will share it with you a bit later.
It all started several years ago when their home was in serious need of repair and somehow they jumped into a wild scheme of remodeling and redecorating. Pat was raised in the New Mexico desert at the base of the Colorado Rockies and was a pretty fair craftsman. The first thing he did was cut some East Texas pine trees and some crooked limbs and made a bed frame. When you peel off all the bark from the small trees, sand them down and stain them with a clear varnish you have some beautiful pieces of wood. Then you duplicate the same process with the crooked limbs and put them together with the four posts, add the hardware and you have something really creative and unique. Pat also built a couple of bedside tables and a log wardrobe.
This is how their "Mountain Retreat" got started, even though the land where they live is just rolling hills, like most river valleys. Not long after this their son was doing a handyman’s job in town and he brought home an old privacy fence to burn.
Peggy said, "When I realized what he was chunking into the fire, I rescued the lumber from that old fence and stacked it up."
Eventually, these boards were used to build a few pieces of “barn wood” furniture and to trim out the entire “interior” of the house, including the ceiling beams which are rough cedar planks.
In the paneled part of the house, Pat “adobed” the walls by swirling blobs of wall texture or “mud,” letting it dry and then painting it. Above the fireplace are rough cedar boards with “mud” stuffed in between for a “loggy” look and completed with 4-inch pieces of round posts screwed onto the wall above the cedar.
I realize that since you are not looking at the pictures, I am not doing it justice, but believe me, it is creative. She goes on to say that the ceramic tile in the den came from a building salvage place. Most of the decorations are Western and Southwestern and came from garage sales and trade days. Some were gifts from friends.
Peggy concludes by saying, "With a little time and effort, very little money and a runaway imagination, we have created a 24/7 vacation atmosphere.”
Here is her summary of the project: “Wall texture÷very cheap stuff, barn wood÷free, most decorations÷nickel and dime, logs÷free (cut a cedar or pine tree, depending on where you live, for the asking).”
Now, let me back up and tell you why this project is so special, and the reason I thought you might have an interest in hearing about it. The personal application here is that almost any person can do this, and this is true regardless of what part of the country you live in. Remember, the key word here is creative.
The "Mountain Retreat" I have just described was built inside a 1974, 14-by-72-foot mobile home. Pat and Peggy purchased the mobile home new and they raised their two children in it. In 1980, they added a 16-by-32 den and that’s what they had to work with when they decided to remodel and redecorate.
To me, this is really American ingenuity at its best. Instead of allowing their home to continue to need major repairs, complaining about their circumstances and all the other excuses people use for not having anything, they got busy and created something really rewarding and satisfying.
There is no limit to what we can do with a little creativity, and I tell you, these people have done wonders with a mobile home. Now they are looking for ways to improve the “outside” of their home, and that was the primary motivation for Peggy writing to me. She wanted to take a look at our landscape timber home to get some ideas.
The original column about our "landscape timber" home is also in my new book.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway AR 72034.)