04 November 2013

Sleepy Hollow, South Carolina Style

For a while there, so-called "redneck reality shows" with characters that seemed to hit all the Southern stereotypes were just about everywhere on cable television.  From "Duck Dynasty" to "Swamp People" to "Moonshiners" to "Redneck Island" and, of course, the adventures of Honey BooBoo, the explosion of these programs was a brief cultural phenomenon that has now appeared to have peaked and pulled back.

For a couple of months, though, it looked like Sleepy Hollow was going to be the setting for its own real-life version that might have appropriately been called "Sleepy Hollow, South Carolina Style."

It started in early August when a house in the neighborhood was vacant after a long-time renter moved out and a "For Sale" sign went up.  A check on Redfin.com found that the house was in escrow when some people showed up at the residence in a very heavily-used RV bearing South Carolina license plates.

When neighbors began to be concerned about the fact that there was a whole passel of kids and a lot of noise, some calls were made to the realtor whose name was on the "For Sale" sign and who turned out to be a part-owner of the property.  What transpired turns out to have met the cliché that this story was truly "stranger than fiction."

It turned out that the occupants of the weathered trailer consisted of a man, his girlfriend, and eleven children (yep, 11), only one of them his and the remainder from who knows.  A little later on, it was revealed that the woman was carrying number 12, too.  The baker's dozen had traveled across the country in a vehicle that barely made it here for the express purpose of seeking the more-liberal welfare benefits found in California.

So, while the group was panhandling at the Walmart in Brea, they happened to meet the owner/realtor of this house, who promptly invited the bunch to "clean up" at the home for "a day or two."  That turned out to be over two months.

It should be noted here that this was a realtor, who, presumably, is supposed to adhere to certain professional practices and ethical guidelines.  For instance, when you are in escrow, should you really be inviting complete strangers (especially in a situation described above) to a house that you are not about to own anymore?  Or, when you've agreed to let your last tenant leave personal belongings in a locked space in the house and said strangers decide to break the lock and take and destroy said property, isn't that something of a problem?  Or, wouldn't it be fair to at least think about what the neighbors might think given that the refugees were said to have been stealing items in the community?  Or, that there might be a potential health, safety and welfare hazard in allowing 13 people who drove across the country in a filthy, dilapidated vehicle to occupy a home (again, in escrow!) that quickly deteriorated?

Now, in fairness to the owner/realtor, there is every reason to believe that she did this because she really thought she was doing charitable work like a good Christian and that she had no idea what she was getting into when that "day or two" dragged on for weeks and that the people involved were not what she thought they were.

On the other hand, that's why there are plenty of other ways, handled, say, by professional charitable organizations, religious or otherwise, to help the indigent, the needy, the poor and the homeless.  Introducing complete strangers into a home that you have in escrow and subjecting the neighborhood to all of the uncertainty this entails  . . . well, that just had true naivete written all over it.

Within a few weeks, the majority of the kids were enrolled in school, which meant, of course, that welfare benefits would be on the way.   Five of the brood came down to the bus stop every day for the ride to Litel Elementary (a few more were enrolled in junior and high school.)  Quickly, the quintet were assigned to ride behind the bus driver for cute little demonstrations of Southern charm like flipping off other kids or cars on the route, for using choice profanities, and so on.  The kids quickly became known at school for their behavioral problems and lack of educational performance and attainment. 

Notably, though, the kids showed every indication of being close to each other and to their mother and her boyfriend.  There appeared to be no evidence of physical or verbal abuse at all when it came to the kids.  The saddest part of all of this, of course, is that these kids had no say in being brought into that environment.  Rough and undisciplined and underdeveloped as they were, they are still kids and they deserve better.

At one point, the mother apparently told someone that she loved being pregnant, which is why she's now on her twelfth one, regardless of whether she can actually give her progeny any decent quality of life--or, rather, to expect that others will provide for them through their donations and taxpayer dollars through welfare.

It looked better from a distance, but this RV driven from South Carolina to California by a family of thirteen itinerants was said to have been filled with trash, dirt, bodily matter and all sorts of material while it was left in several spots around Sleepy Hollow until it was finally hauled off yesterday.  This was from early September during about a week left in the city-owned parking area, while attempts were made to fix the unfixable.
Now, the boyfriend lasted a little under a month, though, and took off one day, never to return.  The RV eventually died and may have had an engine fire.  The boyfriend gave it a valiant effort when it came to seeking to revive the worn-out vehicle while it was parked in the city-owned parking area near the Sleepy Hollow Community Center for the better part of a week.  Soon after, the realtor/owner provided the mother a used car, so that she could get around.  It should be noted that some neighbors gave various kinds of assistance to the family.

At the outset, there were quite a few calls from concerned neighbors to the owner/realtor, who, for the most part, responded quite openly and continued to express her conviction that she was doing what needed to be done from a religious and personal point of view.  A little later on, as the concerns became more firmly expressed, though, the tone changed somewhat.  Evidently, at one point, the benefactor took to telling one of the locals something along the lines of, "Well, Sleepy Hollow has a bunch of pot smokers and drug users anyway."

It bears mentioning, by the way, that the object of this woman's good works has been seen, while pregnant with number 12, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.  Pre-natal care has probably never been part of her long experience with child-bearing (it not, child-rearing.)

Which was probably very telling--sure would make it easier to send complete strangers to the rental you have (even if it was in escrow) when it is in a community with the reputation that Sleepy Hollow has for certain "outsiders."

Yet, eventually, the Christian charitable conviction began to wear out and the owner/realtor talked of an eviction notice and in finding the family somewhere else to live, specifically a trailer in the High Desert, like Hesperia.  The problems seem to have culminated in the break-in to the locked room containing the possessions of the previous renter.  For instance, a headboard was used as a "For Sale" sign for the crumbling RV, which was offered for $500, though, somehow, no one seemed attracted by that price (or, really, any price.)  When the renter came to get some of her items and found the mess that was made, a screaming match ensued which brought some neighbors over to mediate.  Strangely, the owner/realtor sat in her BMW with the doors locked and windows rolled up, probably too numbed by the spectacle of it all to take responsibility for her work and do something to end the fiasco.

Eventually, a mobile home was found for the family by their benefactor in Yucaipa and just in time because the property, which naturally fell out of escrow when the brood continued to hang on (or squat) at the residence, wound up being sold again.  This time, though, the sale price was a cool $70K less than the first sale--a true quantifiable measure of what can happen when good intentions go really, terribly, awfully wrong.  But, then again, you get what you deserve, perhaps.

Finally, about the 20th of last month, the woman and her eleven (soon-to-be an even dozen) kids moved out.  The RV stayed behind until just yesterday when it was finally hauled off to a certain final end at the wrecking yard, and almost certainly paid for by the owner/realtor.

She also employed a couple of local guys to clean out the house and that proved to be quite a clean-up job.  Talking with one of them, it was learned that the carpets were soiled with human urine and feces and cockroaches were seen crawling around the remnants when they were pulled out and temporarily kept in the driveway before disposal.  Boards from the fence were ripped off, chain link fence knocked down and lots of other damage done to a house that had a full-price offer the first time around, but got discounted from $340K to $270K on that second sale!

Now, the place is a lot cleaner and, hopefully, the new owners will make improvements to get it back at least to where it was a decade or so ago when it was a decent place that was well taken care of.  As to the owner-realtor who, it should be noted, didn't even tell her husband and brother-in-law, the other owners, about what she had done until quite some time after the Carolinians crashed the pad, maybe she's learned a lesson?

So, it was quite an experience those two months in Sleepy Hollow, one that won't soon be forgotten.  And, for all that went on, the one thing that lingers in the mind of this observer is what will be the fate of those poor kids, including the twelfth soon to be born?  A mother than appears to be delusional or mentally ill or whatever has brought a large number of unprepared children into a world that, in the best of circumstances, still requires mentoring, preparation and skill sets to navigate through.  But, in that situation, it just doesn't look like there's much hope, although maybe some of them will find a way to overcome.

Now that it's over, it seems like this is one of those stories you just couldn't make up and no "redneck reality show" on cable can likely compare with it.


D Downs said...

OASIS, It sure wasn't called that when I lived there ('52 to '58.) It wasn't much more than a bunch of old broken down cabins. Ichabod's store, 2 pump gas station, Two Bars, one small church, volunteer fire dept., With one little fire truck, supplied by the city of Chino. It might be an oasis to some now, but as a young boy it was heaven to me then.

Stephen Powers said...

My favorite article in a while.

I wondered what the deal with the RV was and have to admit to getting a really good laugh at the headboard based "FOR SALE $500" sign propped up against the back of it for a while.

prs said...

Hi Stephen, yeah, that was a pretty bizarre situation all the way around. Why anyone would think they could get money for that RV when it clearly required it to get it out of there is funny. Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

Hey PRS -- that was an EXCELLENT article, very well written and presented, just TOPS. Consider yourself very highly compliments. It is very, very nicely done. Also love D Downs' comment above about what Sleep Hollow looked like in the '50s. I sure do like this website.

prs said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for the comment and the compliment. I love my neighborhood and the canyon and to know that people enjoy the blog is very cool. And, yes, D. Downs did leave a great comment (which I forgot to recognize) about a time when the Hollow was a very different place. Thanks again.

Vickie Cole said...

I wss in Sleepy Hollow from 61-76 then returned to graduate chino high in 78. I have tons of memories.

prs said...

Hi Vickie, Thanks for the comment and that was certainly a very different time for Sleepy Hollow, wasn't it?