Retirement brings man back to area that shaped him

Aug. 13, 2014 @ 10:12 AM

When searching for a new home, a new place in which to retire, Ken Carpenter decided it was time to come back to a place where he spent part of his childhood.

“I was searching in three areas to retire in,” Carpenter said. “For me, I was interested in coming back to the Appalachian Mountains.”

For his middle school years, Carpenter studied at the Patterson School, a private school that has since closed and become the Patterson Science Center. He said his three years there shaped his future love of the outdoors, and it made Caldwell County a top candidate for his retirement.

“This house kept coming up every time I searched,” Carpenter said of his new home, just a few minutes up the road from the Patterson Science Center. “So, I contacted some agents and came and looked, and this was the property I liked the most.”

From the beginning, the Carpenters felt welcomed by the community.

“I think it was good choice,” Carpenter said. “The biggest surprise I had was I had forgotten about the people here. Everyone’s so friendly.”

The house sits on 10 acres of green pasture land that back up to a line of woods where deer emerge from in the early morning mist. The backyard has a patio, a hot tub and a trampoline. The yard is landscaped with bright flowers and a stone walkway. There is a small barn at the end of the long driveway, and four long faces greet visitors there. The three horses and one mule are the Carpenters’ pride and joy. Nails is an Arabian, Zeke a powerhouse of a mule, and Ofotan and Stigur are Icelandic horses. Carpenter uses them all for riding through the forest, even Zeke.

“He’s a machine,” Carpenter said. “When you ride him, it’s almost like being on a monster truck with the gas pedal stuck to the floor and the brake doesn’t work anymore. But, that’s the way I ride. I ride flat out.”

Carpenter first grew interested in horsemanship when he was in elementary school at summer camps. But it was not until he went to college that Carpenter came to understand the ins and outs of horseback riding. At first, Carpenter stayed in the class because of his fellow classmates.

“It didn’t take me one or two classes to realize that I was in a class with very few guys and all women. There were a lot of girls there, I tell you what,” Carpenter said.

But he stayed with it because of his passion for the animals and their impact on America’s history. In later years years in Wisconsin, he worked on the Wisconsin State Horse Council, advocating for legislation for horses. He plans to continue his work in a smaller role in North Carolina. So far, he has joined the Blue Ridge Horseman’s Association.

The Carpenter property is also home to Jazz, a 10-year-old border collie with a sweet disposition and bubbly personality. She loves to show off with what Carpter calls "the toad game." If you tell Jazz to “get the toad,” the dog will bounce up and down in the grass as if she has found a toad and is trying to get him to hop. Head cocked to the side, she stares down at her feet and bounces forward.

“There is no toad there,” Carpenter said. “She knows there’s no toad. But, it gives border collies something to do. They have to do something.”

The Carpenters are still making adjustments to the property, including renovating a small pasture into a parking lot for their cars and horse trailer. However, Carpenter said any other improvements will have to wait. He and Julie are just still taking time to relax after the big move barely a month ago.

“Who knows? It’s too early to know,” Carpenter said. “We don’t even know where to put the furniture.”