It’s good to have people who inspire you, make you look beyond yourself at what’s achievable. There’s the big names who inspire us, usually athletes who have made good use of their talent, or musicians that hit just the right feeling. I have always been inspired by people who had what seemed to be a dream bigger than life and achieved it. Those who know me know that I’m really fond of Jimmy Buffett, not just for the music but because he had a dream and is a marketing genius. He’s turned his dream into a lifestyle. I had the opportunity to meet Jay Shafer, founder of Tumbleweed Tiny Homes, in January. He took a dream and turned it into a movement.
I have known two people who each followed a dream that really inspired me. Keith Holland, a dentist in Jacksonville, grew up as a river rat, fishing, swimming and exploring. He had a dream to discover treasure. He pursued it, researched, assembled a team of amateur archaeologists, and discovered a Civil War shipwreck in the St. Johns River. That shipwreck, the Maple Leaf, was the start of my interest in Living History. I volunteered to work on some of the educational programs that came about because of his discovery, and he has always inspired me for following that river rat dream…
The second person who inspired me is Walter Stapleton. Walter grew up in Americus, Georgia on an 1830’s plantation. His family lost the property at some point, but Walter always dreamed of getting it back. It was ignored, as some old Georgia plantation homes are, and fell into disrepair. As an adult, Walter was able to buy the house back. By then, it was a rotted ruin, the summer kitchen and carriage house had burned down. Walter began by offering to tear down old barns around the county in exchange for the boards. He built up a huge stock of supplies. He jacked up what was left of the house and rebuilt the brick lower level by hand. Then he set about restoring the upper floor. When I met him in 1995 he had just finished rebuilding the kitchen and carriage house on the original footprints, and had added four guest rooms. He opened a very successful bed and breakfast. As the money came in, he began acquiring back the family acreage. The last time I saw him, he could sit on his back porch, and everything he saw, he owned. He’d added a couple spring fed stocked fishing ponds and was thinking about a three hole golf course. I have no doubt he’s done that, or something else creative and inspiring.
I’ve lost touch with Keith and Walter, but I think about them often and continue to be inspired by two friends who followed their dreams. I thought about them yesterday when a woman who I had been talking to about my tiny house dream told me I inspired her. I have not set out on this dream to be an inspiration, but if I am, I have some role models to follow.