Part two – Catch me if you can!

A different way

We didn’t look for property the same way others did. As usual, we forged our own path. According to Google maps the area was just south and west of the Mark Twain National Forest. According to, it was in a very dark place. So, we were hopeful. 

In early October of 2016, we arrived in the new area around 4 p.m. and promptly napped. Remember, I hadn’t even contacted the Real Estate agent yet. We needed to see the property a few hours after the sun went down first.  We were blessed with a clear night and so we set out. If you look at the area on Google maps, you see the approach from the nearest town, Thayer, MO is filled with hair pin turns. What you don’t see are the hills and valleys. Driving this road for the first time at the posted speed limit – at night – was scary! But the fear subsided when we found the place. It was replaced with sheer joy.  I posted some of the photos Bryan took of the night sky. Those images were made with only a camera & a tripod. The exposures were a bit less than 30 secs as the star movement gets too great without a motor drive.

The next day, we drove the property on an ATV, we fell more and more in love. It had the hills and valleys we loved as well as the trees. It was in a climate that had more of a chance to see a real winter and not so long of a summer. Of course, all this remains to be seen, but the historical data bears out our assumptions. (Let’s not get into a debate on Climate change – we realize all bets may be off… but we’ll see!)

Of course, we went back and forth with the agent because, apparently, there are no surveys to be done in the area (one would cost $5K.) No codes either. I researched the historical data on the land Platt books out of the University of MO to find the actual meets and bounds documents. The real estate ad said “61 acres +-“. We measured on Google Earth, around 57 acres. They have a “Fence law” in MO. Nearly the entire state follows it. Its says that if the fence is in place for 10 years it you own the property. So, who knows really. I even asked the real estate agent about it, he said,”… this is the way we do things up here. Don’t bring your big city ways up here.” After we completed the purchase, we found the east fence and the south fence, but there is no fence on the west boundary. We went to the county tax office to see if they could shed more light. But no, they couldn’t. They have that platt marked in the tax records as 57 acres. So, what we found out is that we bought the parcel of land, not an acreage. We know the existing drive way is on our property, and we know that boundary runs north and south. But the exact placement is still up in the air. I will be working on remedying that once we are there. 

So, after we saw it, loved it and purchased it, we interviewed builders in the area. We talked to a few, but none were as friendly or as seemingly capable as our new friend, Jim Pace. This guy is a mason and self-taught contractor. He and his wife, Sarah, build the houses they take on, one at a time. Each aspect is carefully executed. We inspected 3 or 4 properties he built as well as a block foundation he was in the process of building. The properties were all beautiful, and his price was right. 

As of Dec 1, 2016, we were the proud owners of RR3, Myrtle, Mo. (Of course, this is not going to be our address, that post is upcoming. So many lessons to be learned …)

Our next decision was what sort of house would we build?


Catch up with me


During the process of getting our current house on the market, a friend recommended that I start a blog on all our activities. Well, I already have this site, so, I will transform this more commercial photography blog into an experiential blog describing our triumphs and frustrations in the process of building our house.

But before I jump in with our current activities (and there are some doozies), I must catch you up.

In 2009, the year I quit USAA and Bryan retired, we spent a month hunting for an acreage on which we could build our retirement house and observatory. So, naturally, it had to be located in a dark site AND it had to feed my artistic soul. No dry desert for me, no way. We spent that month in Kentucky, as we had never been there and it was beautiful. 

Bryan and LaNita at Lauren’s HEB management school graduation.

When we returned, we realized LaNita (Bryan’s mom) would be by herself with no one really to care for her in her golden years as the rest of the family were all working more than they should! So, we put the dream on hold until the time was better.

In the summer of 2010, LaNita had lost too much weight living by herself, so I forced her to move in with us that fall. The next 2 years were up and down for sure, but we were both so glad that we had waited and that we could care and love her in her final months.

Meanwhile, between 2009 and 2010, my small business of commercial/personal photography took off and we really never decided to go and seriously look for property again. We were both on the board of directors of the International Panoramic Photographers Association and that took us to many places between 2010 through 2014. We spent time in the great Northwest, and all along the California coast, New Mexico, Arizona and Tennessee. In all those places, we looked at the places convenient to our different IAPP trips and loved seeing so much of this country.

Two years ago, we took another trip, but this time overseas, to Italy, my dream place. I would live there in a heartbeat… but that is a different story. And at that time, Bryan asked me to think about retiring. My business was really changing and I was finding it difficult to change with the new requests coming my way. Shortly, after we returned, someone in my family became deathly ill and I decided enough was enough and said no more. By setting aside my business, I was able to be with my family through to a successful outcome. (All is better now although it was touch and go for several months, thank you.)

When we got the all clear from the doctors, I asked Bryan, “what are we waiting for?”


Mind you, we were very comfortable in our 3400+ sq foot house. It’s a lot of house to care for, and we loved every inch of it. This is the one that burned down in 2002 and we rebuilt in 2003. So, it is loaded with well loved, personal touches along with the remembered pain and angst of all the challenges that we did NOT ask for. 

But in 2015, the time was right. Lauren (our daughter) seemed to be self sufficient and everyone was healthy then and is now (knock wood). So after the Italy trip, we really thought about how to find that perfect place for our sunset.

Bryan found a website called and we cross-referenced that with We looked around the Sherman area 2 or 3 times. Even had an agent take us around in the North Texas country side, specifically, Telephone, TX. Last year, we did fall in love with a 30 acre place in Annona, TX. But, this placed suffered the same as all the places in TX, the owners were very proud of the houses on these beautiful parcels, but the houses themselves were virtually all “tear-downs”. The Annona place was affordable at just over $2K an acre which was the going rate in the area, but the house was plain weird. The house was not worth the additional money they wanted. As an example: They had an upstairs with no stairway. The interior way to get upstairs was a ladder. Really, a ladder. Okay – no. 

We became very upset, and stopped our search for a while. Inertia had set in and we were so comfortable, but really not doing what we wanted to be doing! Last fall, our agent of choice had told us that it was a sellers’ market and we should get back to it. Knowing Bryan as I do, and knowing that I need a deadline to accomplish anything, I thought, let’s look on Zillow again. Maybe we would find a place that would spur us to get our house on the market. Sure enough, Bryan found an affordable place that was more acres than I thought we could afford and was situated in a beautiful part of the Ozarks Plateau in southern Missouri. Rivers surround it, close to Mark Twain National forest and DARK.

We found the place on a Friday afternoon and I asked Bryan what was he doing the following week. He grinned at me and said, “Going to Missouri.”


So, our adventure begins.