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.
THE RESORT YEARS
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.