August 2022 Newsletter

The People of the Park…

Ron & Gretchen Pool

by Dale Dauten

“I thought I’d died and gone to the bad place.” 

That’s how Gretchen Pool described an upheaval in her life back during her teenage years. She’d grown up in Springdale, Arkansas, living a pleasant small-town life: her dad worked in a local factory, her mom an LPN, all in the kind of town where, as Gretchen summed it up, “you could walk to the movie theater.” But something went awry, her parents divorced, and eventually, her mother remarried. That’s when Gretchen began wondering if she’d “died and gone to the bad place”: her mom married a chicken farmer and they moved to rural Missouri, to a farm that lacked the amenities she’d known growing up, including indoor plumbing. Gretchen was 16 years old, a tough age for moving to a new state, although it’s impossible to think of an age where indoor plumbing wouldn’t be missed. [Photo: Teenage Gretchen]

So it isn’t surprising that Gretchen moved back to Springdale as soon as she finished high school. It took years and a couple of bad relationships, but she eventually found the man who she’d spend her life with: Ron Pool. And, whether by fate or coincidence, chickens have played a continuing part in their marriage. [Photo: The Pools at home in The Resort]

But before we move ahead, let’s catch up with the young Ron. Although born in Texas, his family moved to Gentry, Arkansas when he was just five. He went to school there and after Gentry High went on to the University of Arkansas. But, it was the time of the Vietnam War and with the draft board keeping an eye on him, Ron decided to go ahead enlist. While the Army sent him to Vietnam, he says, “I had it easy. I worked in Communications and I was in Da Nang, a quarter mile from China Beach.”

[Photos: Ron in Vietnam, and sunrise over what U.S. troops called China Beach in Da Nang.

Ron’s luck with the Army continued: his next assignment had him stationed in Germany. In all, he served nearly three years before his enlistment ended and he could return home to Arkansas. He found work with major employers in the area, including Gates Rubber Company.

Along the way, his sister, Gail Ransom [that name will be coming back later], happened to mention to her friend Gretchen, “You need to meet my brother.” And so Ron and Gretchen went on their first date, going to a local pizza and beer place with the unromantic name, The Hog Trough. But, despite that name, the matchmaking succeeded — the two fell in love and were married a few months later (and Ron adopted Gretchen’s son from a prior marriage, Eric).

While Gretchen had moved back to Arkansas , fleeing that Missouri chicken farm, it turned out that chickens were still going to be a part of her life. Ron’s dad owned a chicken farm and wanted to retire. The upshot was that while Ron continued to work at Gates Rubber, the young Pools soon were keeping chicken houses. (Ron described these houses as holding 15,000 chickens each, and the Pools usually had at least a couple of them. There weren’t eggs involved as their farm’s part of the chicken/egg lifecycle was to take chicks and raise them till they were ready to go to another type of chicken farm. More on that later.)

For many of those early years, Ron worked second-shift and would check on the chickens before heading off to his job, and then Gretchen would take her turn, even as the family started to grow. (They eventually had another son, John.) “I would take the baby out and put him in a swing,” Gretchen explained, “while I would take care of the birds.” Thanks to automatic feeding and watering machines, the work consisted mostly of making sure everything was functioning properly.

Ron eventually moved on to other jobs, including one at a plant for Little Debbie Snack Cakes, and later joining on with Bekaert Steel. The couple had a time without chickens… they sold the houses… and they also got to spend time in Europe. Bekaert was a Belgium company and they brought Ron over for a nine-week stay, and the company even paid to bring the family over to visit. Ron might have finished his career with Bekaert for their policy on work shifts – they rotated every two weeks, included turns on the night shift, and Ron’s body felt the effects. “I fell asleep driving” he remembers, “and that’s when knew I needed a change.”

What didn’t change was…. yeah… chickens. They come back into the Pools’ life when Ron was still with the steel company: they bought a pair of hen houses, 13,000 and 8,000 chickens, ones laying eggs (thus, a hen house, not a chicken house). It was a breeder farm, meaning that they kept roosters to fertilize the eggs – the house with 8,000 hens had about 900 roosters. (We learned from Ron and Gretchen that the hens have a series of eggs in process, so being bred once could fertilize multiple eggs.) While the goal was to produce eggs that would bear chicks, some of the eggs weren’t candidates, specifically the ones with double yolks. Those the Pools would use for cooking.

Looking back over there time together, Ron concluded, “We had chickens pretty much from the time we married till about four years ago.” We asked Gretchen if she ever missed the chickens or the eggs and she replied, “I miss getting up and getting eggs. Modern eggs in the store are kind of bland. People don’t like a strong egg taste, so they make it so they all taste the same.” They still own chicken houses back in Arkansas, although those are on the market.

Ron’s career didn’t end with leaving the steel company, however, or with the hen houses. He took a job with a company selling and servicing chicken equipment. This meant he was out of the plant and out in the countryside, visiting chicken farmers having equipment problems. “Those old guys on the farms didn’t see many people,” Ron recalled, laughing at the memory. “They didn’t want you to leave – they’d practically hold onto your side mirror to keep you from driving off.”

Then, having spent so much of his life fixing all sorts of construction-related problems, he got a contractor’s license and went into construction, building houses. The housing crash eventually put an end to that, but Ron started doing real estate and bought a repo house to remodel. Meanwhile, Gretchen had begun work she found especially rewarding, being a caretaker for the elderly. And they had chickens.


All of that brings us close to the time that the Pools discovered The Resort. That’s where Ron’s sister, Gail Ransom, the one who played matchmaker many years before, did it again, but with housing. Gail’s daughter needed a kidney replacement and there was one available in Phoenix, via the Mayo Clinic. After regular visits to Mayo and the Valley, Gail discovered The Resort, moved in, and eventually, the Pools came to visit. On one of those visits, they discovered a home for sale at the park and, as Ron put it, “It felt like somebody was whispering in an ear that we need to retire. Maybe God was trying to tell us something.” So they found someone to take care of the chicken houses and moved to The Resort full-time in 2016.

Since then, the Pools have become active in the park, especially with the year-rounders, which Ron sums up as “a crazy group we’ve got here.’ And Gretchen has become known as The Cookie Lady, putting her famous pecan sandies for sale as the park’s Craft Fair, and has since added fruit bread specialties. The cookies sell out and she comes home with orders for many dozens more.

Ron gave The Resort a moving tribute, saying,

“You hear people say how they wish it was like old times where people look after each other. Well, we have it here in this park. If you need help, people will run over themselves to help you.”


Nice. And let’s end with a final photo, this one of the quilt the Crafty Ladies presented to Ron as a thank you for his military service. It hangs in the Pools’ front room.



A Look at the Upcoming Season

By Ann & Teresa

Hello Resort Residents,

Hope everyone’s trips back home went smoothly. It’s really starting to heat up here! We are sending out a reminder of some fun things that are planned for next season.  Don’t forget to bring outfits to match the theme weeks.

We are starting off the season in October with an Appetizer Crawl. Next up is our Halloween Golf Cart Parade on 10/30. Then, on Halloween, we are having a Dinner Dance with Splash, who is coming in costume. Let’s all try to join them and dress up in costume. All proceeds will go to Cancer Research.

In November, we are having our Veterans Luncheon to honor all who have served. Our Welcome Back Party will be Nov 18th with Surefire playing. For Thanksgiving, Teresa and I would like to have a Family Style Thanksgiving in the ballroom. This is open to anyone who would like to join us.

December is full of joy and fun! Our dance bands include the 8 Tract Band, Harry Matthews. Surefire is playing the New Year’s Eve Dinner Dance. Other fun events include a Scavenger Hunt, A Christmas Chorale and the Christmas Cart parade with snacks/music and a Cookie Exchange.

January is the start of 2023 and what better way to start the New Year off than by having our Western Week, Comedian Show, Chili Cook-off by our residents (the voting will also be done by the residents) and a cart parade to announce who’s running for Mayor.

February might be the most exciting month of all. Sports Week so wear your favorite team jersey. The next week is Sweetheart Week. Sweetheart Week will include a dinner and dance with 8 Tracts. For Mardi Gras, Harry Matthews will be featured for a dinner and dance, then comes “Ladies Night Out”.

March starts off with “Men’s Night,” followed by a Murder Mystery Dinner, Island Week which includes fun with games and special guests who will entertain us with their ukuleles. We will also have a Luau. The next week is taking us all the way back. We are having 50-60s Week. 50-60s Week includes a Spring Chorale, soda shop, a car show then we will end the night off with a sock hop. March ends strong with a Volunteer Dinner and an End of the Year Street Dance.

Miss everyone already,

Ann & Teresa