[Photo Credit - Don Wills]
Friday, September 11, 2015
January 1999 - Life in Oak Springs, the Homeplace
Life in Oak Springs, the Homeplace
This series of posts on each Friday, henceforth, moving forward during 2015 will continue the stories of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction families in the area of Oak Springs following the novel “Christmas at the Homeplace,” which ended as 1997 began. Earlier, we have seen the community move from January 1997 through December 1998. We now move into January of 1999, in novel format…
Chapter 1 - Lori and Karen (Point of view) - Episode 1
“Beverly has moved back to Oak Springs, permanently, again!”
Lori repeated what she had just told her mother. Karen, Lori’s mother, thought for sure that she had heard her daughter incorrectly. Beverly, Karen’s younger sister, had a long history of not wanting to visit for any length of time, let alone live in, their home community of Oak Springs. Now, Lori was saying that she was back, for good. Could it really be true?
Lori had just gotten off the phone with her friend, Jaxine Hagen, the Assistant Manager at the Oak Springs Motel, located out near the Ozarks Community College campus on the west side of town. Jaxine had said that Beverly was very clear in her comment on checking in at the Motel, just minutes earlier. They all did know that Beverly was now the owner of the Oak Springs Motel following the death of her second husband, Winnie, the prior fall, but no one expected her to move back here, away from the mansion she lived in, in Jackson, Mississippi. The motel was just another fine investment that she had inherited, they had all assumed. Now, she had said she would be living there, at the motel, right here in Oak Springs.
Karen and Lori were sitting in the office of their the Homeplace Country Inn on the opposite side of Oak Springs, in the east Oak Creek Valley. In the early 1990s, Karen and her husband, Jason, had remodeled her family’s old farmhouse into a modern Country Inn including a large meeting room they called the Heritage Room. The Homeplace Inn now honored the more than 150 years the home farm, the “Homeplace,” had been in her family. They had welcomed the addition of the Oak Springs Motel across the valley because more rooms were needed for the growing agri-tourism and college visitors to the valley in recent years. The Inn and the Motel tended to serve different clients, so they had each thrived together.
In 1959, Beverly had left the Homeplace within days of graduating from high school saying she never planned to come back. Her youth was an unhappy one. She felt she had always been compared to her ultra-successful older sister, Karen, and could never live up to expectations of family or community. She wanted a fresh start, in a new place, and she had chosen Jackson, Mississippi, a few hundred miles to the south of Oak Springs, in the southern Missouri Ozarks mountains. There, in Jackson, she had found work as a secretary in a construction company, married a divorced engineer with a young daughter, and they had two children of their own. As she had promised, she hadn’t come back for many years.
This changed in the fall and winter of 1986-87. In the fall, her widowed mother, Mildred (McDonald) Bevins had died. Mildred left a very unorthodox will that received the full attention of her four surviving children: Karen, Beverly, Bart and Peter. The will required that to be considered for any portion of the inheritance from the estate (including several hundreds of acres of family farm land and substantial cash investments) each of the siblings, now scattered across the country, would be required to commit to live on the farm land in Missouri for a minimum period of two years. Upon hearing this, Beverly had just about “gone ballistic” threatening to sue to break the will and taking any actions necessary to “get her inheritance” for her children.
Karen, Jason, and their four children had been living in Tucson, Arizona, where Jason was a Financial Planner and Karen was a long-time nurse at a local hospital. Jason and Karen made the commitment to return ‘back to the homeplace’ in their motorhome, leaving their youngest son to finish high school in Tucson. Matt, their oldest son, lived in the Boston area with his wife, Susan. They had eventually moved to Oak Springs, in 1996, with their two children, Tyler, nearly 9, and Emily, nearly 6. Lori was living in the Los Angeles area, at the time. Erin, her younger sister, was in college at the University of Texas, in 1987, when her parents moved back to Missouri in response to the will. Erin had since married Mark James and they lived in Austin, Texas, with their daughter, Jessica, who would be 2 next month.
Bart, and his wife, Diane, were the only ones who actually lived on the farm. Bart had left his real estate career to return to run the farm for his mother when his father, Frank, had died of a heart attack ten years earlier. Bart and Diane had assumed that he would continue to farm the land for the family when his mother passed on, many years in the future. That future was now, in 1987, and they found their future very uncertain, as well, both for themselves and their two teen-aged children.
The youngest of the four siblings, Peter, lived in Oregon, where he was a teacher.
Beverly, committed to “getting her share” of the farm and her inheritance, had come to Oak Springs in February of 1987 for the “reading” of Phase II of the will, with some reluctance. She was accompanied by her husband, Paul Gates, and their children, Scott and Heather, still youngsters of 9 and 5, respectively, along with his nineteen year old daughter, Sheila. The “reading” was actually a “video will” that Mildred had made with the assistance of the family attorney, Carter Ogden. Different versions had been made depending on the number of her children who had decided to attend the “reading.” So, when they had gathered, rather than the attorney reading the will, Mildred, on the video screen, spoke directly to each of the children. They were seated around a conference table, in a pre-planned seating arrangement, so that she looked at each one, individually, as she spoke, and told them the plan she and her husband, their father, had developed.
What the children didn’t know, until later, was that the whole point of the unusual exercise was to assure that the Century Farm of her family, the McDonald family, remained intact into the future. The McDonald family had originally settled the land in 1833, shortly after Missouri statehood. Frank and Mildred did not want to see the farm broken up and sold in pieces after all those years of building it to its present state. The will created the Bevin’s Trust to administer the farm land and cash reserves, regardless of how many of the children chose to participate.
Upon hearing and seeing the video will presented, Beverly was initially furious. It just confirmed in her mind how little her parents and siblings “cared about her feelings.” She adopted a totally selfish and self-serving attitude and approach. Fortunately, her husband, Paul Gates, was there to see another side to the situation. He saw an old mill on a creek in a beautiful Ozarks valley along a spring-fed creek running through the farm that could be made into a major tourism attraction with a little tender loving care by a good engineer. He saw a great place to raise their children. He saw a new life for his troubled older daughter, a fresh start for them all.
Lori knew this story well, having heard it many times over the ensuing twelve years. She knew that Beverly had, in deference to her husband and her children, agreed to stay and try to live out her husband’s vision, for the children’s sake. However, she also knew that within weeks, Beverly had freaked out, again, and returned to Jackson. Paul and the children had stayed, and lived up to the family obligations under the will. The Trust, Paul, Beverly and the lawyers worked out a divorce and a settlement wherein Paul and their children stayed, and Beverly remained, divorced, in Jackson. She eventually remarried, a wealthy, older southern gentleman, if fact. Now, that husband had died, and she had returned to Oak Springs.
[To be continued - next Friday]
"May everyone have a homeplace, if only in your mind."
Dr. Bill ;-)