| There was an article in the paper the other day about the need to conserve energy and make the country less dependent on foreign oil. Who isn't for that? However, there weren’t many new energy-saving ideas in the article. But something I read reminded me of a couple who moved to our town years ago from California.
The couple bought the old abandoned Leighton place out on the Sprague Falls Road. The house came with about 12 acres of wooded and pasture land and sat on a pretty knoll overlooking the Narraguagus River.
No sooner had the couple gotten out of their energy efficient car then they started talking to anyone who would listen about the special new-age, energy-efficient house they planned to build on their property. They also talked a lot about someone named Rex Roberts, who they said had written a book titled “Your Engineered House.” Their special house would include many of his unique sunny California-type ideas on efficient house-building, they said.
People in town had never heard of this Roberts fella. They knew a Doc Roberts who had an office in town and there was at least a few dogs in town named Rex, but that was the extent of it. Most were more curious about why someone would move from California all the way across the continent to Down East Maine just to build a California-type house "special" or otherwise.
This couple would come into the Tru Value hardware store almost every morning and strike up a conversation with most anyone. They would say things like: Maine houses are poorly designed and end up wasting a lot of space. An efficient house like the kind Rex Roberts builds doesn’t have a pitched roof, but gently gently sloping roofs that allow for the most efficient use of space, they would say.
Most townies would just stand there in the hardware store, listening. They didn’t want to get into an argument or anything, but they really didn’t enjoy listening to these California folks making fun of the way Maine people build houses.
That first summer these newcomers hired a crew and started work on their special house. It was a one-story, simple-looking building on a cement slab with a gently sloping roof that would have pleased Rex Roberts. And, once the house was finished they started right in building what they called a geodesic dome to use as a guesthouse and storage area.
A geodesic dome is a spherical structure made of a network of struts that intersect to form triangles that distribute the weight across the entire structure. They say it’s efficient and the only man-made structure that gets stronger as it increases in size. But Maine winters are not impressed by domes, geodesic or otherwise.
As the dome was taking shape word spread about the strange looking structure going up on the Sprague Falls Road. Old timers said those triangles might work in sunny California but once winter set in those triangle joints were going to start leaking. The California couple was not concerned.
Once the house and the dome were finished they had a house warming and most everyone from town went to check it out. Everyone agreed the two new places were impressive, but it was a warm sunny autumn afternoon. Gentle breezes were blowing through the open windows.
But the gebtke fall breezes were soon replaced winter's heavy snows which almost collapsed the gently sloping roof on the Rex Roberts house. Then, come mud season we had so much rain that every joint in the geodesic dome started leaking.
That was enough for that couple. That May they packed up and moved to Vermont. No one’s heard from them since.
The two structures are still there, though. But I don’t think Rex Roberts would be pleased with the way they look. The neighbors aren't too pleased, either.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at email@example.com or 899-1868.