Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Grow House

As Vice Pres, acquisition for Flag development My first assignment was to find developable Florida real Estate to invest approximately thirty million dollars. Of course that was the fun part of my job.
One of my responsibilities with Flag development ,after we had all The land bought, was interim use. Coming from an agricultural background ,that was a pleasant job for the most part, however there were snags from time to time.
We had 560 acres in West Palm Beach, which I would travel down and pretty much just make sure no one dumped trash on it.
The two thousand acre Orlando site I had a hunt club ,and a cattle lease going on it making sure we received an ag exemption so holding cost were kept as low as possible.
The Lakeland property I had the previous owner lease back for cattle, did some sod harvesting and also some timber.
The headache as it turned out was the Brown Ranch ,Halfway between Zephyrhills and I-75,as it had the only house on all the land we bought.
I had a cattle lease worked out on the land and the previous owner, had one of his employee’s in the house, and then the guy moved out. I was informed by our insurance company that sitting empty the house liability insurance would triple so----I ran some adds.
I had a call from a guy saying he was interested in renting the house and made arrangements to meet him. When he pulled in I could see he brought the whole family. It was he ,his wife and three small children, they were driving an older Cadillac Eldorado,the car was clean inside and out that can tell you sometimes how they take care of there house. They liked the house and we came to an agreement on rent and they were to move in the next day. Problem solved or so I thought. A few weeks went by and we received the Electric bill and it seems they had never had it switched over to their names ,so My wife drove over to the house to give them the bill and to tell them to get it switched over pronto. When she pulled in she could see that no-one was home .She went to the back door and saw that someone had covered the glass with black plastic on the inside. She had a key, so she unlocked the door to investigate and was met with a strong Odor. Stepping in the house she saw no furniture and the upstairs was completely blocked off with black plastic around the stair well. She pulled the plastic aside and was almost blinded with bright light coming from the upstairs and as she made her way to the top of the stairs she was greeted by the sight of pot after pot of pot with drip hoses going into each one, and huge stadium lights acting as the artificial sun on this indoor growing field. She made her way quickly downstairs, now fearful they might come back and find her there. She went back out side to her car and called the Sheriff on her cell phone.
When the Sheriff got there they removed over 50 plants. No arrests were ever made as the real nice guy with the nice family I rented the house to, said he sublet it to someone else and he of course was no-where to be found.
This all happened in the late 80’s so they were pioneers, I know that it is a lot more prevalent now. So if you have rentals might want to watch for tell tale clues, high electric bills, no-one ever home, lack of furniture, because over and above the legality issue, a grow house is high heat and super high humidity and will wreck your property.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Boogey Man

I was laying on my stomach on top of the levee In the darkness, watching ,waiting, Because we knew they were coming.
Phil Schultz and I had volunteered to go on a more or less recon mission . I had the only bike ,and It was my families farm. Actually it was what we called it the River farm, as It laid between the levee and the Mississippi river. All in all it consisted of around 600 acres of the best soil Iowa could send down the river. Every spring and sometimes in the late fall the river would come up and deposit some more silt or top soil on our land. Sometimes in the spring we got the crops in late sometimes not at all, but when It worked out to our advantage weather and river wise we had killer corn and soybean yields.
But we weren’t down there working the farm this night. We were a part of the junior youth group at Calvary Baptist Church in Quincy, and the rumor was the senior youth group led by a notorious prankster, who was rumored to have been a professional wrestler called the masked marvel, Was going to bring his band of cut throats( the senior youth group)Down to terrorize us and we were bound and determined to be ready. His real name was Buster Mcfeters and he was the leader of the senior youth group.
Phil and I had made our way from the cabin to the only way in or out. A dirt road lined on each side by huge fields of towering corn. It was just turning dark and the late October wind made the seven to eight foot tall corn sway and crackle. I thought we would see headlights as the river bottoms stretched totally flat for twelve miles until it reached the towering bluffs. Well we waited for about a half an hour, and no headlights coming down that single flat gravel road--they must not be coming. Time to head back to the cabin where everyone else was and maybe have a couple hot dogs or something this recon work can make a guy hungry.
I hopped on my bike and Phil got on the back and we headed back down the dirt road toward the cabin. The road went straight from the levee for about an eighth of a mile and then it turned a ninety degree angle and went on up to the cabin .We had just made the turn and were only fifty yards from the cabin when all of a sudden someone ran out from the cornfield right next to me screaming.
I jumped over the handlebars of that bike and hit the road running. I left poor ole Phil right there on that bike and he was too scared to pedal. I sprinted the fifty yards to the cabin ,yanked the screen door open just as a water balloon burst through the screen, and a cherry bomb exploded behind me. I jumped inside the cabin just as a cherry bomb exploded inside the wood stove. They had gotten on the roof and dropped it down the chimney.
The preachers son Dave Bower had his bb gun as did a couple others so they grabbed them and out the door we went running for the cover of a small woods just about fifty yards from the cabin. As we headed for the cover we were chased by countless bottle rockets, cherry bombs going off and terrifying war hoops.
There were five of us all laying still in the tall grass at the edge of the woods, waiting for the attack to be over. Finally our leader along with the group of boys that were still up by the cabin made a formal surrender, and it was over.
We sat out there for about another hour until we thought they all had left, then started around the edge of the woods. As we went past a shadow a form stood up and waved his arms., David Bower opened up with his bb gun and the others did too. The figure was making groaning noises, and they kept shooting it with bb’s just shooting and cocking shooting and cocking, finally the figure stumbled back into the woods and we all took off running back to the cabin.
Back at the cabin ,all the angels of terror were gone and we talked and laughed about the whole night.
We found out later that none of the guys that came down with the senior youth group were anywhere near the woods nor had anyone been shot at with bb guns.