Quest for Chincoteague

The ongoing saga of one writer’s obsession to convince the world, and the stars, that she must live and write in Chincoteague, a quaint seaside village on the coast of Virginia. Click here to read previous installments. Or click here to see her picture book, Call of Chincoteague.


“The Real Estate agent sent us info on six properties,” I said, flipping pages with listings available in our price range.  “There are two I really like.”

Bruce walked up behind me and looked over my shoulder as I sat at the kitchen table in our rental cottage.

“What’s the lot size?” he asked pointing to the small square cement block house with green awnings over the windows.

“Says ‘point five’,” I answered.

“That’s half an acre, pretty good size for Chincoteague.  Does it have any outbuildings?”

A shed and garage are important to this man. They are a refuge, cluttered with greasy machine parts, tools, technical books, and nab wrappers.

“A shed, screen house, garage, and small barn,” I quoted.

“Let’s take a look at that one.  Where is it?”

“Bunting Lane.”

Bruce mapped the property on the computer and found it fairly close to where we were staying.  He wanted to scope it out before the Real Estate agent had a chance to talk us into anything.  We got in the car and drove.

I instantly fell in love with the property, minus the plaster deer, gnome, and lion yard ornaments.  The house was built of cement blocks in shades of tan, gray and brown, a structure straight out of 1960’s Mayberry.  The detached garage was made of the same material. The lot was surrounded by a chain link fence.   Bruce walked, surveying the half acre, outbuildings, and assessed the house from the outside.

I was identifying the shrubbery, already planning spring flower planting when he rounded the corner of the house.

“Passed the first test,” he said. “Let’s mark this one to come back to.”

And so it went. We completed outside inspections of five other properties without the company of the Real Estate agent, and we narrowed down two ‘definites’ and one ‘possible’.  I still liked the Bunting Lane place best and the listing sheet promised knotty pine paneling inside, my favorite for creative inspiration.

The Real Estate agent picked us up the next morning and gave us the lowdown on the neighborhood as she drove to Bunting Lane.

“It’s a good spot,” she said, “the houses around you are owned by year-rounders.  They’ll watch out for your property when you’re away.”  She was already talking about the house like it was ours.  I was  believing her.

She pulled into the driveway and parked her SUV.  “The lawn ornaments come with the house,” she said, and then laughed.

As she walked up the stairs to the side door, searching for a key,  Bruce passed her on the porch and went straight to the locked garage.  The woman looked surprised, but put on her smile and met Bruce at the garage door. For the next half hour, she talked tools and workshops, following Bruce from shed to outbuilding, trying to extol virtues of the space.

“How far above sea level is this lot?” Bruce asked.

“You know we’re on an island and all property is prone to flooding,” she prefaced.  “I’d say it’s three to four feet above sea level.”

Bruce took out his tape measure and noted how far the heat pump was off the ground.  He looked next door to the house built on a five foot high cinder block foundation. Then he turned back, and looked at my new favorite bungalow in front of him, sitting very close to the ground.

“Let’s go inside,” he said.

Now we were treading in my territory, the knotty pine paneling region. I’ve always wanted a house with knotty pine paneling.

“Remember, this house was owned by an elderly couple. It needs updating and smells like an old person,” stated the agent as we walked into the house.

“I’ve worked with old people for thirty years,” I said. “I hadn’t really noticed that they had a particular smell.”

“I’ll just let you folks look around. I have a phone call to return,” she said stepping outside.

We walked into the kitchen, a small rectangle of space, with just enough room to turn around.  I’m no gourmet cook, so the space was large enough for me.  The dining and living room were connected and the paneling here needed refinishing, or at least a good scrubbing, but the look was beautiful.  I was  sold and ready to move in.

I could see myself set up at my computer, looking out that picture window as the ponies ran by on their way to the summer auction. The Marina and Main Street were close by, and the view of the creek running in front of the house would be lovely from the walk…

Bruce doesn’t dream of space, or imagine ponies. He opens cabinets, closet doors, peers at ceilings, and pushes the floor around the toilet with his foot.  He inspects breaker boxes, electrical outlets, and sink pipes. He measures rooms and looks for a spot where the carpet is loose so he can see the flooring underneath.

As the agent reappeared, Bruce said, “There’s water damage in two places on the ceiling, that I can see. Look right there,” he pointed. “The ceiling tiles are sagging.  If you open that closet door in the living room, you can see where the ceiling is damaged next to the chimney.”

Bruce scratched his head, then went on. “The wiring probably needs to be replaced, and the pipes are the old galvanized type.  What’s the flood history on the house?”

“I’ve lived on the island twelve years,” she said.  I’ve not known it to be flooded in that time.

We knew the house was built in 1956 and there was an island-wide flood in 1962.  We looked it up online.  The chicken industry died in that flood and some houses on the island were completely destroyed in the natural disaster.  I could read Bruce’s mind.  He was wondering what the floor looked like under the thick carpeting.

“These leaks, and the need for upgrades are all to your advantage,” the realtor said. “We can make an offer well below the listing price.”

I was considering what she just said, and wondering if this was to our advantage, and to my advantage.

“I’m going to slide into the crawl space under the house,” Bruce announced, walking to the realtor’s car where his traveling tools waited.  He shrugged into his coveralls, put a tape measure into his pocket, and armed with the flashlight, he shimmied into the space between dirt and structure.

“He’s thorough, isn’t he?” the agent turned to me and asked.

“That’s an understatement,” I answered, and watched my dreamy, cottage visions disappear in a swirl of dust at the crawl space opening.


Quest for Chincoteague © 2011 M Dawn Thacker. To review all M Dawn’s work on the Now, click her tag below.

2 Responses to “Quest for Chincoteague”
  1. Virginia Phillips-Smith says:

    Loved this one, Margaret.

  2. thanks for keeping up with me Jen. It’s been a fun adventure.

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