Branson Fairy Tale

A while ago, my father and his friend went to Branson, Missouri. My father’s friend wanted to buy a place for some relatives, and maybe a second place for himself, as an investment.

They discovered a house on the lake selling for next to nothing. A simple, 1970s-style A-frame, but on the water, with a dock. The owner wasn’t around, so they poked around. They saw the owner had  done a lot of work on the place. Reindeer pranced in concrete or grazed next to a home-made gazebo. A statue of Santa Claus raised a jolly hand. A concrete grotto enclosed some lake water. A bar-b-cue pit stood ready. A hot tub. A miniature golf course with red carpeting. All kinds of Christmas decorations were up, even in the early summer.

They both agreed that it was tacky as hell. But a great price. They called the owner. They asked, without asking directly, why it was so cheap. Then they got the story.

He was a widower who fell in love with a local woman. She promised to marry him. But she wouldn’t marry him or move in with him until he’d remodeled his place, the A-frame house on the lake. She insisted that he make it into a dream home fashioned after her own tastes and fantasies.

The guy didn’t have a lot of money, so he undertook the work himself, building, planning, pouring cement, digging out terraces. He worked full-time in a hardware store, so the labor of love happened over weekends and evenings for several months. The woman was fanatic about Christmas, so he added Santa and Rudolph and the rest to please her, and added more decorations. She was crazy about miniature golf, so he laid out a little course.

In the meantime, even with the work underway, even with Jolly Old St. Nick in place and the pipes to the hot tub laid out, she didn’t give an inch. She’d only marry him when it was done. She certainly would not move in with him, either.

He finished. They set the date for the wedding. The engagement was announced, the invites mailed.

And four months before the wedding, the woman died.

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