He held his hand up to signal us to stop. We pulled up to his four wheeler and cut our engines. He pointed to the pond on the left filled with lily pads. “See the bubbles?”
We all stared into the pond searching for bubbles. Sure enough, about 15 yards into the pond, right next to the patch of lily pads, we saw the bubbles. There were only a few, but they were big.
We nodded in unison. “There’s a gator in that pond. This is the same spot we saw the 10 foot gator last month.”
Ricky and Shelly slid quietly off their quad. Shelly threw off her flip flops and walked towards the pond. Ricky walked around to the back of the quad and began searching for something inside their storage pack. He pulled out a 9mm handgun and walked to the broken down bridge overlooking the edge of the pond.
I looked at Sean and the others, then my attention went back to Shelly. My mouth hung wide open. I wasn’t sure I was believing what I was seeing.
Shelly was knee deep in the pond when I screamed.
Sean and I met Shelly and Ricky a couple of hours ago. When we left for a ride at 11 that morning, we were with Donna and Rick, Jan and Ron, and Tommy.
We decided to take it slow in the beginning because we weren’t quite sure how we would make out. In the past few days, it had rained almost 5 inches, and the trails were abnormally wet. But it didn’t take us long before we figured out how to navigate through the water. It was turning into a great day. The sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue with white fluffy clouds scattered here and there. It was 90°, and blazing hot in the sun. We rode through long streams, passed camps nestled back in the pine trees, and then into an area called the canopy.
The canopy is one of my favorite places to stop and take a break. I’m not sure what type of trees make up the canopy, but they are enormous, with branches jutting out from the trunk in all different directions. The foliage covers the entire sky and makes the perfect canopy of shade; a great spot to take a break and sip on an ice cold beer. The 7 of us were talking and relaxing when we heard another quad approaching. As they got closer, Tommy waved his hands in the air to flag them down. He caught their attention, and they drove towards us, stopped and turned off their quad.
“Hey, Tommy. We haven’t seen you in a while. How’s it going?”
Tommy and Ricky shook hands. Tommy introduced all of us.
Ricky, Shelly and Tommy have been River Ranch friends for almost 2 years, and they joined into the conversation.
They told us a little about themselves – married for 20 years, have a 15 year old son and live in the middle of the state near Lake Okeechobee. They were country folk with the cutest southern accents. You could tell that they are each other’s best friend. They are a great couple and have a great sense of humor.
As we packed up and got ready to leave, we asked them to join us. Ricky and Shelly seemed to fit in perfectly.
The 9 of us left the canopy to continue our journey. We went through some swampy, muddy areas and then found ourselves riding through a huge pasture with cows hiding under the trees, trying to escape the sun.
Our next stop was on the far end of the pasture heading back into the woods. We all sought out shade trees and stopped our quads to take another break.
We snacked on some beef jerky, opened another beer, and the stories started to fly. The winners of the most interesting and entertaining story were Ricky and Shelly.
They told us about an alligator they found on the side of the road. They used duct tape to tie its mouth shut and loaded it into the trunk of their car to transport it to their little farm.
It was a funny story of one of their many alligator hunts. But the story of that alligator hunt did not prepare me for what I was now seeing.
I was screaming as Shelly continued further into the pond. She was sort of hunched over with her arms at her sides, her hands fanned out, running them through the water as she walked.
“Shelly! What are you doing? Are you crazy? There’s an alligator in there!”
Shelly stood up and looked at us. She turned her head slightly to the left and pointed with her thumb.
Standing on the small broken bridge, above the pond to the left of Shelly was Ricky. His eyes were squinting into the water – his 9mm gun cocked and ready.
She smiled and said, “I’m not crazy. I have Ricky. I’m not afraid when I have him to protect me.”
And then she bent back down into position, hunched over, hands fanned out, and continued walking deeper into the pond.
I still couldn’t believe it. “Yes, but he is up there. You’re in the water. You’re the one in danger.”
This time she spoke as she continued walking.
“I trust him. He won’t let anything happen to me. He protects me.” And she continued on her walk of faith and trust.
We watched in awe as Shelly walked through the dangerous waters, with Ricky standing to the side of her. He watched her every move, he never let his guard down. He guided her to the left – then to the right. He guided her all the way to the far end of the pond. As she moved through the dangerous water, filled with the unknown, Ricky was on guard and ready to protect Shelly in a split second.
In the face of all the danger, it was still very moving to watch. The love, the faith, and the trust.
It’s amazing what one will accomplish when they have people they love and trust. They can face dangers, go into uncharted territory, when they have someone on their side that they have faith in and trust. Someone who will protect them.
Stacey was a 25 year old single woman who had a dream of buying a home. She was a first time homebuyer. She would be entering uncharted territory and she was afraid.
I met her at a First Time Homebuyer’s Seminar that I was hosting. She hung around afterwards until everyone else left. I thanked her for coming and asked her what she thought of the seminar. She told me she really liked how I took time to explain the process of buying a home and she liked how I patiently and thoroughly answered everyone’s questions. She told me she really felt comfortable with me and that she wanted to move forward with buying her first home. She explained to me how she would be the first one in three generations in her family to buy a home.
I assured her that I would guide and navigate her throughout the whole process and protect her from any and all hidden dangers.
A week later, Stacey called me and said she was ready to go.
I explained to her that the first step would be to get pre-qualified by a mortgage company and that I could set up a time for the two of us to meet with a loan officer that I do a lot of business with.
Two days later, we sat down with Joe, the loan officer, and Stacey got pre-qualified. That weekend we went house shopping, and Stacey found a great little home that she adored. We put an offer in, and it was accepted.
The next step was the home inspection. I guided her through the inspection and sat down with her to go over the report. There were a couple of major issues on the report and she needed them taken care of before settlement.
It was time for me to “draw my gun” and protect Stacey, making sure she was not going to be taken advantage of. I negotiated with the seller and his agent and was able to get both issues repaired – and even got her a warranty on the repairs. Stacey was happy that she wouldn’t have to worry about her hot water heater or her roof for the next several years.
The mortgage company worked on her loan for another two weeks and did a great job. They were ready to settle right on time. We scheduled the closing for the next Wednesday.
I reminded the seller’s agent that we still needed the receipt and warranty for the roof repair. He emailed me a repair order with no receipt or warranty. When I asked him about it, he said the seller’s cousin worked for a roofer and did the repairs for free. No warranty.
I called Stacey and explained the situation to her. She said she thought that it would be okay. I had to “draw my gun” again. If she settled for this type of repair, she would have no recourse if her roof started leaking after settlement. She’d have to pay for it to be fixed properly (if it wasn’t fixed properly by the seller’s cousin). The cousin did not have a license, and he could not offer a warranty. The seller agreed in writing to provide her with paid receipts from a licensed contractor and the contractor’s warranty on the work. That is not what the seller just gave us.
Stacey agreed and said she didn’t want to take the chance on having a leaky roof when she moved in.
Luckily, I knew a licensed contractor that had done a lot of repairs for me in the past. He went to the home, checked the repair, and he said he would warranty the work if he could make two additional adjustments to the current repair. The cost would be $125.
After negotiating back and forth a few times, the seller agreed to pay, and Stacey got the warranty as written in the contract.
The rest of the process went smoothly, and on Wednesday afternoon at 2pm, Stacey became the first homeowner of her family in three generations.
Her smile went from ear to ear, and her dark brown eyes welled up with tears as I handed her the keys to her new home.
For the past 60 years, no one in Stacey’s family owned a home. It’s amazing what Stacey accomplished. She trusted me. She entered into uncharted territory, faced her fears. She walked through dangerous waters.
I was on her side. She trusted me. And I protected her.