The trailer I rented, out in the country, had sat empty for months. And by empty, I mean no humans occupied it. During that time, word had apparently spread through the varmint and critter communities that a “grand hotel” was seeking tenants. And they had come in droves – if spiders and snakes travel in droves. It didn’t take long to discover why the snakes had come; the prospect of a smorgasbord in the form of an endless supply of fresh, plump mice must have been very enticing.
The first thing I did was empty three cans of raid on the place. Then, I set out poison for the rats and mice. Once their food supply had dried up (somewhat), the snakes moved on to greener pastures – but not before I’d killed a bunch of them! I really don’t like snakes.
In case you’re thinking that made all things better in the trailer, let me assure you, it didn’t. First, the place was filthy, so much so, that cleaning did little to help. And it was tiny. At 8 x 24 feet, it was even smaller than My First Apartment, which I wrote about last week.
Although, one positive feature that stood out was the keyless entry. It wasn’t designed that way but the landlord had lost the key and was of no mind to replace it. “Just don’t lock the door,” was his advice. I’m not sure why I thought anyone would think anything inside the run-down tin box was worth stealing, but I felt it was important to lock my door. And did so. However, I didn’t waste a lot of time trying to pick the lock – a well-placed kick next to the latch popped the door open astonishingly well. I was 19 and didn’t really worry about causing any damage – but then; I’m not sure how anyone would have been able to tell.
The carpet had once been a deep shag with a nice design – but by the time I moved in it had become more of a dingy-colored mat. Then, there were the windows. Not a single one of them closed and most were broken. But even with the coming winter, which in Wisconsin means cold, as in sub-zero temperatures, I didn’t see the condition of the windows as much of a problem – not with the numerous holes of various sizes in the walls and floor. When the wind blew, the snow came right in. The propane furnace didn’t have a chance. It ran constantly and in three days the tank, a big tank, which I’d just filled, was empty.
Some days, my brain actually functions in an efficient manner, and this being one of those days, I quickly determined that at nearly $100 a tank, heat was something I could not afford. I’d already turned the thermostat down to 50 degrees and still the furnace would not shut off. I considered just not filling the tank but I needed gas for the stove. So, I came up with an “ingenious” solution. This solution involved a candle placed beneath the thermostat with a sizeable piece of tinfoil stuffed around it to hold the heat. That did the trick; the furnace did not kick on.
Of course, that presented a new problem of the water freezing up. But that was easily remedied by pulling the fuse to the water heater and shutting off the water. Conveniently, someone had run a pipe, with a heat tape wrapped around it and a separate shutoff, from the well into the tub. Unfortunately, the tub didn’t drain – even in the summer. To avoid going outside and turning the water on and off, I’d fill a big pan of water for washing up, cooking, and cleaning. The drawback was that if I didn’t use it right way, it froze. Every morning, I’d put the pan on the stove and convert my ice back to water – then I could make coffee. When I got home after work, I’d heat it again if I needed water for anything else. Yeah, it was a bit chilly in the place.
But I wasn’t entirely without heat. My waterbed, set up on the floor I’d reinforced, did an amazing job of keeping the frigid chill out of the air – as long as I stayed in bed with my head covered up. Seriously though, it did warm the ambient temperature in the trailer some. Not enough to melt the ice in the pan – but some. I did survive the winter – obviously, only to have the “icebox” magically transform into an “oven” a few months later.
Why did I put up with all of this? Well, I’m not sure. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that rent was only $100. Or, maybe it was simply because I was 19 and in a weird sort of way it was entertaining. I don’t know.
A few years ago, I took my kids to see the place and the trailer was gone. I felt a little like Squanto returning home from England as I stared at the empty field full of nothing but tall grass.
One last thing: this post really should have been titled, “What A Remarkable Woman My Wife Is,” because this trailer is where I lived when we got married. She moved in – and never once complained! Although, until now, I’m not sure she knew about the snakes!