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From Fairbanks to Advance: How did it happen?Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2007, at 7:36 AM
When my husband asked me to look for a farm in Missouri in 1974, he had a specific criteria: First, it had to be in the middle of nowhere - no neighbors to be seen in any direction. Second, it had to be in the hills. Third, he didn't want a house, so we could build our own. Fourth, he preferred one near his hometown of Dexter, while I wanted one near our old college town of Cape Girardeau. This meant a compromise somewhere in between.
I left Fairbanks, Alaska in July of 1974 with our 5-month old son Todd and took Alaska Airline to Springfield to show off our first child to my family. Then mom drove us to Southeast Missouri, so my husand's family could meet their first grandchild.
The tomatoes were ripe in the garden in July, and I should have known that we would never be able to stay away from Missouri the rest of our lives....
All the members of the family were only too happy to help us look for a place, so we would come back home. A real estate company in Dexter had a farm listing between Advance and Bell City, but the agent couldn't take us until later in the week. Ah, you know we didn't wait! I had done my first teaching at Bell City in 1964, so we knew the area.....sorta...
Off through the hills we searched, trying to find the farm, which was about 180 acres - and in the "middle of nowhere" right enough! (Sorry , neighbors, if you're reading this, but you have to admit the truth!! It was even more isolated 30 years ago!) Of course, we had to stop and ask directions of the few farmers we saw in the fields. David Tropf was in the front yard of his old family home, and he gave us directions to a washed-out gravel road. We had to leave the car and walk in.
It looked good - an old house was falling down near an ancient barn. It fit the bill! It was so grown up that we jumped a startled coyote, who scuttered off like a crawdad....
I stood in the middle of the land and used up the last of the film in my super 8 movie camera.
When my husband later saw the film, he made a decision, flew down in the fall of '74, and closed the deal. We had never even driven through the town of Advance, much less met one single soul! When I think back to it, I can't believe that we moved into an area without meeting any of the local residents! What a decision!
My husband Dale moved fast after that. He bought a trailer to keep up near the barn and hired his dad to take care of the farm on weekends, while we were supposed to stay in Alaska until we had earned enough money to pay it off.
HA! That was the plan, anyway!
In January, I think, we came "out" (which is what they call it when you leave Alaska) to spend a week or so at the farm. As if that wonderful vacation weren't enough, we had to face the rigors of Alaska when we returned. As we sat in the airport at Anchorage, they read the temperatures over the loudspeaker: 25 degrees in Anchorage, -60 degrees in Fairbanks. All the heavily-clad Fairbanksans just shook their heads and laughed.
Usually whenever anyone returns to Alaska from the lower 48, friends and family meet them at the airport, but -60 degrees is not really much fun, even in a climate where the people are used to it. In fact, you can get used to anything down to about -40, and after that - it's just plain miserable no matter what. Vehicles don't like to run at less than -40. Our car was plugged in at the house, but when we walked by it, we accidently tapped against the heavy-duty extension cord, and it broke! Dale had to round up another cord immediately and go out to hook up the circulating heater underneath the hood --- otherwise, it would never start the next day. The next day? Heck, it wouldn't start within an hour, if it weren't plugged in!
I think that was the beginning of the end for our Great Experiment in the Far North......
Well, gotta leave for work this morning, so this blog entry will have to end for today...
From the hills of Tillman, Missouri, this is Madeline DeJournett signing off......
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.