(Mike note: We’re going a little longer than usual today. Special subject. I appreciate your indulgence.)
The first time I set eyes on Sequel House was 25 years ago or so.
My friend, the late Mary Craven, lived in this little shack on the lake outside Wallace Brooks Park in Inverness and invited me over one day. I instantly fell in love with the house, the property — the whole nine yards. Until Mary moved out, I’d drop by occasionally to sit in the yard to write.
I never forgot that little house.
Time went by and in 2005 my life was upside down. I was finalizing a divorce, selling our house in the Highlands and preparing for life on my own.
My friend Kim worked for a local real estate office. I told her I was looking for an apartment near downtown Inverness, within walking distance to my favorite watering hole.
She showed me an apartment that was just OK.
That’s when Kim said, “Mike, I know a place you’d really like.”
“Oh yeah?” I said. "Where?”
“That little house down on the lake.”
I’m thinking, I know this town pretty well. Where is she talking about?
“What house on the lake?”
“Well,” she began, “you know when you walk into Wallace Brooks Park…”
I stopped her.
“THAT house? You can get me into THAT house?”
And so she did. I waited several months for the then-tenant to leave. Some nights I’d stand on the Wallace Brooks Park pier and just stare at the little cabin, praying for that day.
It finally came on March 31, 2005. Eighteen years ago.
I dubbed the home “Sequel House” because it represented a new life. Little did I know that the next 18 years would produce a number of sequels and adventures beyond my imagination. Some incredible, some terrifying or sad. All memorable.
A few examples:
— I met the property owner on my very first morning. “I’ll be your last tenant,” I told her. We’ve developed a good relationship over the years. Jury’s still out on my prediction.
— Fifteen months after moving in I detoxed from alcohol, alone, in the house. I wouldn’t recommend it. I used to tell people I had hallucinations with sound effects — at night I could hear alligators crawling across the hardwood living room floor.
It was most unpleasant but I’ll never forget it. At least I hope I don’t.
— First time my wife, Deb, saw the little old house she said it had “potential.” Or maybe she was referring to me.
— Every so often we see deer laying down in the yard or grove. There are a lot of reasons for that and usually it’s OK. But one day, a deer went down in the backyard and didn’t look good.
I called a wildlife rescue and someone showed up, hoping to nurse the doe to health. I sat on the ground, holding this precious critter’s head in my lap, while the wildlife person tried to nurse it through a bottle.
It soon became obvious that the doe wouldn’t survive. We called the fish and game commission, which sent an officer out and put the poor thing out of its misery. I think of that day often.
— On the lighter side, I once had a fun indoor/outdoor cat named Friendly. The screens were set so she could come and go as she pleased.
One day I’m working at the table and see Friendly wandering in. I turned to say hello and it wasn’t Friendly at all but a raccoon. Walked right past the open front door.
This eventually became a problem. I’d be in the other room settled down for the night, cat on the bed, when we both hear something eating her food in the kitchen.
I bought a raccoon trap and set it on the back porch. I captured the raccoon family, one at a time, for six straight nights and released them in the state forest. I see their cousins on occasion but they keep a respectful distance.
(I later learned releasing raccoons off property apparently requires a permit. So forget we had this talk, OK?)
— And, of course, this little home now houses Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson.
Each day I awake facing a window that looks eastward. Mixed with pockets of light breaking through the darkness are silhouettes of deer taking an early morning stroll to the park. One morning — no kidding, my birthday — I saw a newborn trying out its legs right outside my bedroom window.
I’m not a coffee drinker but I’ve had many sober moments on the porch, newspaper or book in hand, sipping on home-squeezed orange juice listening in on nature. At night, the swamp critters are a symphony of expression. It’s fascinating.
I’ve lived in this home longer than any other. It’s one of a kind and I truly believe God brought me here for his purpose. Each day is a reminder that I’m the fortunate recipient of his grace and mercy.
I have discovered a place of peace. It’s called Sequel House.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.