Words and Photos by M. Lokelani Howe
I forgot to breathe when my husband Shayne walked up our driveway holding a cardboard box and a pink slip. I couldn’t move a muscle—but inside, my thoughts raced out of control. Mostly, I worried about losing our home.
Old country songs gave voice to an inner lament as bills piled up and our truck broke down. Still, in some mysterious way, our faith grew stronger.
Seven months into unemployment, Shayne found another job, and I took a deep breath. Together, we moved forward like folks do. We sold our starter home, upgraded to a newer suburb, had babies, and pursued our dreams.
There have been plenty of challenges to navigate: health issues, career changes, and family deaths. And yet, it all seemed manageable with a roof over our heads.
I didn’t want to imagine anything less for our family, perhaps because my own story began in a mobile home. From there, my parents moved our family from apartment to apartment until they could finally afford to buy a house in the California suburbs.
They achieved the American Dream, but as a child, I longed to see my mom smile as she did in a faded snapshot taken back when they were living poor and happy in a trailer park, with a child on the way and neighbors who left groceries on their doorstep.
My parents didn’t last long in the suburbs, especially after the recession began and layoffs followed. Now here we are again, an entire nation—from California to the Carolinas and beyond—maneuvering through inflation, supply chain shortages, and threats of recession. So many hardworking families have joined our first lament wondering, How much worse can it get?
Here’s the grit, y’all—
Our family has survived no fewer than three layoffs in three years. It can get worse, no doubt. But there’s still a roof over our heads and country songs to sing. New adventures, too.
My husband took a contract position up north, too far to commute but not far enough away to relocate. Our choices included renting an apartment for him to hunker down in during the week or getting an RV. In the end, the housing market crisis forced our hand as even rentals involved long waiting lists and bidding wars.
We found a used Winnebago fairly quickly and sped off the lot even faster, only to hit an unexpected roadblock. RV parks had waiting lists too—long ones. We drove to a dozen locations and couldn’t find an RV park with fewer than 30 people hoping for a spot. But this time, I remembered to breathe.
There was one last place to call—Wagon Master RV Park & Alpaca Farm in Sanger, Texas. The manager, Peggy, took our call, and sure enough, they had a waiting list. But Peggy didn’t rush me off the phone, and she cared enough to ask, “What size is your rig, honey?”
Peggy had one spot left—too small for the other rigs but just the right size for our Winnebago. We didn’t waste a moment and paid the first month’s rent over the phone, sight unseen.
The RV park has become a home away from home for my husband. There’s a certain charm about living in a camper, but at Wagon Master, “It’s all about location, pardner.”
Not only are the sites spaciously laid out, but many offer shade trees, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. Residents and guests enjoy thoughtful amenities throughout the property, including a pool, full kitchen, lounge area, laundry room, exercise equipment, and the quiet life of country living where crickets chirp under the tree line.
Shayne’s found refuge alongside folks from states spanning the nation, including empty nesters from Florida, hipster church planters from Minnesota, and work transplants from California. His neighbors have invited him over for supper and laughed at his stories. All the things we cannot do.
There are still hardships to navigate, but I’m learning to roll with the punches, breath by breath. I’ve found solace while baking banana bread in the suburbs for our new neighbors in the country, to return their kindness. And when all else fails, I drive the kids up north for a getaway.
They love to feed the alpacas that graze in the field at the center of the RV park. It’s been magical to watch my son throw his head back and laugh with joyful abandon whenever an alpaca nibbles feed from the palm of his hand. I can’t help but laugh along with him as our anxieties fade away. These moments will last for the long haul, no matter how hard life gets.
Hopefully the old idiom is true: The third time is the charm. The economy will rebound and Shayne’s job will stick. But even if not, I’ll keep humming the lyrics of one of our favorite country tunes—Baby, let’s roll with it.