For almost nine months, I ran and worked the Rondarosa alone after Tink found himself locked behind closed borders in Canada, producing a new season of the Hallmark smash hit, “When Calls the Heart.”
In wading boots, I crawled into the east fork of the river and repaired a barbed wire fence that kept the horses from wandering away. I was soaked from head to toe when I was finished, but the job was accomplished.
As the heat rose up from our Massey-Ferguson, I bush-hogged pastures in the July sun. I couldn’t decide if the tractor’s engine or the Georgia skies were hotter, but combined, it was a miserable experience.
When our master suite wound up painted in the ugliest white created by man — I was, against my better instinct, talked into it by experts — I took on repainting the entire suite, except the walk-in closet. I refused to tote out all those belts, scarfs, and shoes again. For six weeks, I sidestepped ladders, kept paint brushes in the fridge (this makes them easier to re-use) and tried to paint at least 30 minutes a day.
During this time, Tink called regularly or checked out my progress by video chat.
“Call the painters back,” he said repeatedly.
“I will not,” I replied with the Appalachian stubbornness that is a trademark of our people. “Do you know how much painting costs? I will not pay that again. This is my fault, and I will fix it.”
The new color— a milk chocolate — is beautiful with the jarring, vivid fabrics and leopard carpet that I had spent a year, saving up to buy.
Now, every couple of days, Tink will look at the gorgeous carpet and say, “This is the most beautiful carpet I’ve ever seen.”
I was inspired to such a drastic decorating measure by Tink’s stepmother, who carpeted her magnificent, spiral staircase in leopard. And, by Gyphon’s, there’s a wonderful tea room in Savannah (a drugstore built around the turn of the 20th century and now owned by SCAD), which is floored in a stunning black and taupe leopard print.
Folks often say, “Oh, I want to visit the Rondarosa. I want to see it.”
Tink said, “People think we live on a picture-perfect ranch. They don’t realize it’s an old farm with weeds and thistle.”
He was gone — working as hard as I but in air conditioning — when spring cleaning time came, so I hand-scrubbed the porches, swings and rockers.
In addition to the daily barn chores, something was always breaking or needing repair. Plumbing. Garage doors. Washing machines. Pasture fences that were swept away twice by storms.
We put in new trees in spring to replace three dozen that we lost to winter storms over four years ago. I wish I could recover all the time I spent calling the landscaper who rarely showed up as promised.
One day, he delivered a big tree that took a backhoe to unload. He asked for a check for the tree he had paid for, promising to be back after lunch to put it in the ground.
One week and many agitated calls later, he returned. That experience took three years off my life.
That and choosing the wrong paint.
It was hard, but I was always grateful that Tink had such a good job at a time when Hollywood had shut down almost completely.
Happily, he returned. And just as happily, I handed over all the problems. I came home from the grocery store shortly thereafter and could not get the newly repaired garage door to open. Tink came out and fiddled with it until his patience evaporated.
I pulled the car up to where he was standing, shaking his head, and rolled down the window and smiled.
“Welcome back to our world. This is not Hallmark.”
Despite himself, he laughed.
John Tinker is executive producer and head writer of the Hallmark Channel’s No. 1 rated drama, “When Calls the Heart.” In Hope Valley, unlike the Rondarosa, things are usually perfect.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Visit rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.