• Cara Van Leuven

Inflecting the Old Man

Last Sunday Tom again asked me if I had considered boarding Penny to get her back into fighting shape. Although so subtle, a microexpression, in his voice I heard the red flag. I scanned our property and saw our once green grass being overtaken by sludge. I looked at the perfectly designed mudlot we created from a long-ago destroyed barn’s concrete foundation and the horse miraculously outside of it (fencing still in tact). The dogs sprinting across the grounds showcased more brown as opposed to black and white.

Johnny Bravo, our solo male goose who has taken to patrolling the land since Topaz’s mysterious disappearance, hissed me out of my trance.

It was only hours later that Penny was on the trailer and headed for a stall inside the walls of the beautiful Marshall Show Stables.

Her relocation honestly has far less to do with her physique or the convenience and opulence of the stable. It has far more to do with the maintenance of the relationship I hold near and dear to my heart - that with my old man. The mud and death of freeze that has taken over our farm is threatening his sanity as well.


During the start of the recession I lost my job in 2008 followed by my house smack dab in the middle of the St. Louis South City Slums.

I packed my bags and opened the door to my 5th floor unit in the last of the unrehabbed lofts downtown - the building was a unique collection of artists and art collectors.

Here is what my mom saw (and perhaps why she began sobbing):

  • The walls were covered in a 3rd grader’s talent of smearing black paint

  • Windows that lined the south wall were adorned nails holding sheets of Goodwill quality and colors

  • Green flossies were EVERYWHERE

  • A fake black marble Jacuzzi tub that could never fill entirely due to the lack of water pressure

Together she and I spruced that place up. The walls were painted, curtains were sewn and flossies discarded. It was also where I began to paint since, after all, my neighbor was an acclaimed landscape artist and my latest boyfriend was renting a studio above me.

I was regaining my footing - there were no decent jobs but I reveled in being a carriage driver. I loved my home and my neighbors and ultimately started loving my life again.

It was at the coffee shop when said-artist-boyfriend introduced me to a gentleman with endowed arms, glasses, a coffee and a book. I was introduced and thought to myself, “You’re going to be my boyfriend some day.”

Maybe it was a over year after our initial introduction that I organized a neighborhood hike spanning 3.5 miles on New Year’s Day. Over a dozen people showed up, but not Tom, who I now know despises hiking. I was assured by a very good mutual friend during our hike he and I would work. She was so assured I asked her for his number, sent him a text and asked him out.


It’s been nearly two years since we left our city life for a quiet existence despite screaming geese, mute ducks and unruly dogs. We were never unhappy, but we are happier. And I realize how important those tiny inflections are.

#lovestory #1861farmhouse #downtownstl #stlouis #countryliving