An unmarked, unpaved forest road. An overgrown path. A few misplaced houses. Random heavy-duty farm machinery on the side of the garage.
I took my time collecting my equipment before stepping from my vehicle. As I pulled up, I had noticed a man with a wiry frame quickly disappear around the side of the garage. The address on the mailbox told me, unfortunately, that I was in the right place.
Unsure whether to ring the doorbell or step around the side of the residence, I chose the latter and the aforementioned man appeared, introducing himself as “Rick.”
“Yeah, I’m Rick, but probably not the Rick you’re looking for,” was the strange reply from the man. “I believe he’s downstairs in his basement, I’ll take you down there.”
Uneasy, I followed him, thinking to myself how this assignment was going to be a bust, at best. At the worst….
Rick #1 opened the sliding door to the basement, called for Rick #2, and then let me in.
Rick Homerding, the subject I was looking for, was seated at a table next to Janice, our Lemont writer. “Great, I thought to myself, now the Ricks have trapped both of us.”
In reality, Mr. Homerding turned out to be a truly humble and interesting person.
Among his 21st Century surroundings, just off Bell Road in Lemont, Homerding lives and operates Puckerville Farms, which was formerly owned by his parents. Despite the absence of livestock and other animals, the farm makes a majority of its money the latter half of the year, selling pumpkins and Christmas trees.
But it is Homerding’s passion for preserving history that was really inspiring to me.
Turning a former trade as a sandblaster– where he cleaned barges operating along Chicago’s canal system–into a hobby and an art, Homerding’s farm has become somewhat of a living museum.
He restores vintage cars, old industrial boilers, milk cans, furniture and other antiques using his experience as a sandblaster. He then repaints, or adds his own charm to the artifacts.
For nearly an hour, Homerding proudly showed me around his property, giving me a bit of history as we went. My opinion (and apparently many others) is that he could bring in a pretty penny for just about all of his work. However, he never sells anything he makes, believing that turning it into a business would jeopardize his passion and enjoyment for it.
Each day as I prepare for my assignments, I often have a preconceived notion about how they will go.
Ironically, it’s the ones I often dismiss that turn out to be the most fulfilling.