My family and I inherited this huge estate from my forefathers. It was legendary throughout the area for its beauty and productivity. Everyone in the surrounding areas would marvel at it, betraying slight wisps of envy in their voices. It was well known that it had everything a family needed to survive. It had a good source of water, fruit trees, abundant game, plenty of timber for firewood and building, and fertile soil for planting.
When the estate passed into our hands, we were excited about going to see it. We had been told of its existence since we were young, and looked forward to the day when we could experience for ourselves that thing that everyone had marveled at for decades.
When we arrived, however, we were shocked to see what its present state was. The fields were overgrown with weeds, the fruit trees and timber had been destroyed by bugs and diseases. There was no game or even evidence of it around to be seen. And if these things weren’t bad enough, the house was a complete shambles.
It was easy to see at first glance why at one time the house would have been the envy of others. A huge, Victorian-type dwelling with columns in front that brought to mind times of Roman antiquity. It was a house built so well that it should have stood for centuries, providing generation after generation with security and comfort.
Now, the windows, were broken out, some from vandalism, some from the shifting foundation that had been undermined. In addition, the walls weren’t square anymore, the doors wouldn’t open or close normally, and once inside, we could see that the plaster was coming down from all the movement and displacement of the structure’s footing. The pipes had burst long ago, leaving the damage that water will produce over time. The hardwood floors were swelled and bowing in spots. At first glance, it looked too dangerous to walk inside, but, carefully, we did anyway.
Not being particularly adept in home repair or building, I decided to call on a few contractors to see what they thought. The first one I saw in the yellow pages advertised himself as the most called upon authority in home repair. Certainly, the fact that it was almost impossible to get hold of him testified to this. Others in the community talked about him too. “Call him,” they would say, “he’s the biggest.”
After chatting with him for a few minutes on the phone, he agreed to come out, warning me before he hung up not to call anyone else, that they were all fly-by-night outfits that were just out to rip me off. He showed up in a brand new van that looked like it had never seen a day’s work in its life, and neither did he. He was heavy-set with manicured nails and designer name clothing all over his body. He introduced himself–
“Hi, Rush Limbaugh, the most called upon authority in home repair.” He had a team of assistants with him, and by their name tags I could read Glen Beck, G Gordon Liddy, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, and Michael Reagan. He was friendly at first, but before I could ask him what he thought of the house, he went into the business of name dropping, listing all the wealthiest people in town he knew or with whom he had done business. “You are soooooo lucky to have me here on the job, ” he would say over and over again. The other guys were talking among themselves, trading dirty jokes, and from what I could make out, whispering to each other how big this particular “score” was going to net them. The only one who wasn’t talking much was the old guy named Liddy, but I did catch him eyeing my young wife alot.
When Limbaugh looked at the house he said, “Oh, this is pretty serious. We’re going to have to replace the windows, the plaster, the paint, the plumbing, the electric and the hardwood floors. Give me a downpayment of a million dollars and we’ll get started.” His fellows backed him up with impressive sounding talk that made it seem like they were filled with expertise. I interjected, more at his appraisal than at his price. “What about the foundation?” I asked. “Doesn’t that need to be taken care of first?” The reaction from all of them was simultaneous and confusing, yet all in agreement. “No,” he/they assured me. “Let’s just get this thing looking good, and you’ll be in good shape. Besides, maybe if we can repair the damage and hide the real reason for it, you’ll be able to find some sucker that will take it off your hands for more than you put into it.”
I could see that these guys were just crooked contractors, despite all the hype and advertising that surrounded them. But how do I explain the fact that other influential people in the town’s social circles, including the mayor himself, speak so highly of them? Paybacks, payoffs, payola? Maybe. Then again, maybe there’s just something to that old saying, about a sucker being born every minute.
I decided against hiring them. There was just something screaming in me not to trust them, despite the fact that I knew relatively little in the area of Home Improvement. They were too contradictory, talked to fast, and interrupted too much when I would ask a question about this or that, not to mention the fact that they continually avoided telling me things about the project that I knew had to play an important part in fixing it the right way. When I finally accused them of being in collusion with each other to mislead me and steal my money, they all said indignantly I was some “conspiracy theorist kook,” and walked off.
We decided to fix up the estate ourselves. It seems almost an impossible job, considering its immenseness. But what else can we do? We need a place to live.
In later years, I would slowly but surely hear others complaining about them, their shoddy work and dishonesty. But they still stayed around, doing what seemed to be a heck of a lot of business.
And now when I drive through town, going for supplies, I look at all the other houses that are falling down because of foundation problems and have just received new windows and a fresh coat of paint and wonder to myself, “is that some of their handiwork?”
Mark Glenn is an American and former high school teacher turned writer / commentator. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN).