The house at 2821 Casco Point Road was sold, and a hobby farm at 7321 County Road 15—four miles west of Lake Minnetonka and nearly all of eight acres—was purchased and moved into while I was back at Lakewood Community College.
You see, I barely understood Dad’s legacy. His middle initial, “J,” stood for “Junior.” His father’s name was Paul E. (Edgar) Maupin. Grandma and Grandpa always called Dad “Junior.” I think he hated it, hence the switch to a middle initial.
Dad would turn 49 years old on Jan. 1, 1981. That’s five years younger than I am now. He’d decided to completely reinvent himself and the Family Project, created back in 1957 when he married Mom. That reinvention plan likely began before he sold the house on Casco Point (pictured above and at right).
Pop had a wooden sign engraved “By His Grace, the Maupin Family,” which hung outside the garage facing the road. I bristled at that, given my agnostic predisposition. But Dad’s spiritual backstory is a complicated one, one I’ll probably never nail down. However, once we’d made the move, he changed the sign to “By His Grace Farm,” and the transformation was nearly complete.
By then, the Project was beginning to fragment. I was finishing at Lakewood and my brother Brian, upon high school graduation, attended a community college in Ely, Minn.
I remember when I first arrived at “the Farm,” probably that autumn. Dad picked me up at the Mound bus stop, since I didn’t at that point own a car. I wish I would’ve recorded that day in a journal.
Two dogs immediately greeted us as we pulled up to the house: Bingo—one of Lassie’s pups, given back to us by neighbors who could no longer keep him, and a steel-blue Australian sheepdog Dad had named Muddy (photo below right). Muddy genuinely frightened me: as she approached she bared her teeth, shook her stubby tail, and sneezed excitedly.
“—She doesn’t bite … right, Pop?” I said.
Then—as if on cue—a swarm of other animals greeted us: geese, chickens, and a tomcat named Teddy.
It was like coming home to a zoo.
The farm soon became Dad’s new major project. Of course he was still working at the University of Minnesota. Later in the 1980s, he’d park his used Dodge pickup at the Mound bus stop and take the city bus in. It was like he was living dual lives.
He didn’t plant crops—hence the “gentleman farmer” epithet. The plan was to raise chickens for eggs. The dogs and geese worked as a “home security alarm system” more than anything else.
Inside the farmhouse was a small breakfast nook in the kitchen, a swinging door that lead to a sun-drenched dining room, living room with fireplace, master bedroom, bathroom and den on the main floor.
Upstairs, a small living area housed a sofa, chairs and TV, three bedrooms: the first at the top of the stairs became Mom’s sewing room, another small one next to it (window, top floor in the photo at left) became my bedroom, and baby brother scored the largest bedroom, which had windows overlooking the driveway. There was a tiny bathroom upstairs, too, and an attic crawlspace for storage.
The house was surrounded by pines, mere feet from the back door, and a massive field that led down to woods abutting Whaletail Lake. Just past the corn crib, a dirt path took you straight to the lake, where Dad had installed a dock so he could tether a boat and fish to his heart’s content.
It’s timely to remember this now that Brian and I may have finally sold the place that actually became their retirement home, in southwest Florida. Florida never felt like a home to me, ever. And some of the most bittersweet memories of the 1980s and early 1990s spring from my time on the farm.
So, reinvention. Dad, then; me, now.
The concept of home still evades me, even after living in so many places: Broad Ripple, Indianapolis. Then parts East: Old Baltimore Road, Maryland. In 1971, Minnesota, at the Little Renovated Summer Cottage on Casco Point.
And now, “By His Grace.” A plot of land out in the country.
Secluded, teeming with animals. Soon, an empty nester’s home.
But always, Junior’s farm.