Part III- Okanogan:
I write about how Jody and I meet in 1977 in the foreword to the 2015 Strange Particle Press edition of Passing For Human. It isn't long before Jody recruits me to help with the Irondale business. I'm young and inexperienced enough to be flattered to be entrusted with the bookkeeping. (Note to young self, "bookkeeping is not a thrilling piece of adult business, it's just an onerous repetitive pain in the ass.") But to be fair, Jody has been doing this alone for a long time and how I handle this will be an indicator as to whether I can be trusted with greater responsibility.
In 1981 we buy our first parcel of land in Okanogan County. By now I have learned how the business operates and how to communicate and sell. Jody is an excellent teacher.
Turns out our skills mesh wonderfully, where Jody is weak I excel; where I am weak she is strong. So while she writes full time, I am tasked with finding a new location where we can replicate the Irondale success.
There's no internet so research is via phone and mail and in person. After months of searching I find the place where county regulations, beautiful terrain, views and price align.
The plan is to buy a large tract of land at a 'wholesale' price, divide it into smaller parcels, and sell those to people in Seattle at a 'retail' price. This "spread," or difference between wholesale and retail, is our profit.
We do everything ourselves. We find the land and buy directly from owners. We sell the land for $99 down and $99 per month on a Real Estate Contract we carry ourselves. We tramp and measure and stake and take photos. We figure out how to divide what we buy and write the legal descriptions that make it so. We advertise in The Little Nickel using inexpensive classified ads and we meet people at the local Denny's Restaurant where rent is the cost of a meal plus generous tip.
We have no competition, no one is doing what we are doing. In later years others begin to offer similar terms, some of them legit and some of them scammers. But we have an advantage because society does not recognize our spousal relationship. For this technical reason we can buy two adjacent tracts of land as separate individuals and each of us divide our parcel into four pieces, giving us eight plots to resell. A married couple can only divide the same whole into four parcels. (And that's how to take a crappy hand dealt you and turn it to advantage!)
We enjoy quite a bit of freedom, but also there is no corporate daddy to fall back on; the bucks stops with us- for good or ill. Nobody funds our retirement account or provides us insurance. We take all the risks, we get all the rewards and we assume all the responsibility. It takes a bit of courage and a whole lot of ethics to pull that off successfully for decades.
So, we begin our Okanogan business in 1981, we model it after the successful Irondale Lots, which is built on Jody's successful Encyclopedia Britannica experience, and the last Okie property we sell is in 2007, just months before Jody dies. (We have a lovely time that summer clearing brush growing up in the road and find a big jade rock (OK probably not jade, but pretty) that takes the both of us to lift into the trunk to bring home.)
Over these 30 years we buy and sell hundreds of acres of land, dozens and dozens of individual parcels. By creating our own unique business model, to supply exactly what Jody needs to write full time (a modest but steady income from a few months part time work each year), she is able to spend her life doing what she loves; producing the body of work that we all are the lucky beneficiaries of.
(Continued in two weeks)
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