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Ken and Karyn Corkran enjoy a moment out of their day with a special visitor. (Special to the American Press)

Ken and Karyn Corkran enjoy a moment out of their day with a special visitor. (Special to the American Press)

Pair of empty-nesters find peace outside hectic city life

Last Modified: Monday, June 23, 2014 6:48 PM

By Rita LeBleu / American Press

When Ken and Karyn Corkran of Sulphur, La. starting getting close to retirement age, like a lot of empty nesters they found a patio-style home plan that suited them. The plan was to downsize. But instead of constructing their 1,850-square-foot home on the typical zero line lot, they did what many might consider to be a complete turnaround. They’re “city slickers who have “gone country,” which is how Ken puts it. His description is perfect for this family’s story of leaving the subdivision lifestyle behind for 40 acres in Beauregard parish.

Ken is a LaGrange graduate who made his career in the design and building industry. The house that the Corkrans live in now is their sixth. He subcontracted each one of their former homes and built a few custom homes to flip as well, while working at C. Gayle Zembower, Architect, Inc. in Lake Charles for 37 years.

“We’ve got sawdust in our veins,” he said. Karyn (Woolman) is from Sulphur, a teacher, who worked in the classroom and in administrative positions. They’re both retired now – at least from those jobs. (Ken suggests “re-fired” instead. Like “Gone Country,” it also fits.)

The two got to know each other “through a church newsletter mailing,” and began writing letters back and forth when he was in Europe during the Vietnam era. When he returned they were married in 1971. That was 43 years ago.

After the Corkran’s two children, Jason and Amanda, left home to begin their own homes and families, Ken and Karyn thought they might look for a few acres out of town. “We chased listings and rumors for a little while,” he said. We wanted a place that we could run, but wouldn’t run us.”

Hurricane Rita put a hiatus on that plan. Ken had his hands full sub-drafting for several architectural firms during the rebuilding of Southwest Louisiana. Before the Corkrans knew it, two years had passed and Karyn would be retiring soon. They didn’t think any more about country living. Instead they pre-selected their patio-home style lot in Sulphur to build on.

But right before time to build, Ken saw a listing that piqued his interest. It was for a mobile home and at the bottom of the ad, in small print, was the following: “Includes 40 acres.” They thought the price might be a misprint, but Ken called anyway.

The location was ten miles north of Longville and ten miles south of DeRidder. The price was no misprint. “We beelined it over here quick, Ken said.

The mobile home and land was “in the middle of Mennonite Country. A creek cut through the slightly wooded area. There was a pond, a rolling hay field and an old shed of a barn. I even saw a wild turkey,” Ken said. “I had looked at a piece of property in DeQuincy and was disappointed when the owner changed his mind about selling it. When I saw this, it felt like a huge blessing from the Lord. He had something even better for us.”

The Corkrans purchased the property and moved in three days. Stuffed into one of the loads was a decorated Christmas tree that they moved all in one piece. It was Dec. 2007. It snowed their first winter, a Southwest Louisiana rare occurrence. Ken said he looked out at his “retirement” BMW convertible sitting in the middle of the pasture, covered with snow and just laughed. He traded it in for a tractor the next week. One morning he looked out the window and remarked to his wife that he didn’t recall buying the deer statue in the yard. It wasn’t a statue. When they decided to walk their property, they discovered that it took longer than they thought. “For you city folks, 40 acres is a quarter mile square,” Ken pointed out.

Everything changes when you move to the country, according to the Corkrans. Their apparel changed. They added boots of course. And Karyn organized her shopping in a way to cut down on the spur of the moment grocery runs that were easy to make when she lived in Sulphur. She also took up hand piecing and quilting, something she’d always wanted to do. In fact she dug out a pattern she’d had for 20 years. “I’m not much of a TV watcher. I have to be doing something,” she said. She made jelly one year but the Corkran’s didn’t take up gardening. “There are only so many hours in a day,” Ken offered.

“It even smells different here,” Karyn said. They don’t seem to be as bothered by allergies and they were both surprised by how quiet it is. As far as restaurants are concerned, they say that they have discovered two steak places in DeRidder that are, to them, better than any other steak place at which they’ve ever eaten in any city, and a gift store that sells different coffees and other gift items.

The first three years in their new environment, they spent cleaning up the property, reshaping the landscape, refencing the acreage, cross fencing, restoring an old barn and building a new one. “He wanted to keep the old barn and he couldn’t live with one that was leaning, so he fixed it, painted it…. He’s OCD,” Karyn said about her husband, Ken.

When it came time for them to start building, Karyn was a tremendous help. The house was built in 100 days.

Highlights of the design and decoration include the three large unadorned windows in the living area that are duplicated in the master suite. The windows have a view of pasture land that seems to go on forever. There is no need for light in the early morning hours in the beautiful country kitchen. One of the many antiques in the home includes a rocker from Karyn’s side of the family, over 100 years old. Three antique folding church pew chairs front the stone fireplace. “We can use those around the dinner table when we need to,” Ken pointed out.

At the entrance is a clock that he explains is a landing or granddaughter clock. (Grandmother and granddaughter clocks are shorter than grandfather styles and can be used in landings and other space restricted locations.)

Built-in china cabinets hold pink depression glass that’s gone from a couple of dollars for a goblet when Karyn started collecting it right after she and Ken married, to $55 dollars a goblet today, according to Karyn.

Engineered, hand-scraped wood flooring, exposed interior brick, tray ceilings, real wood walls in some places and a mahogany wood ceiling in the hallway are a few other highlights of the home.

The Corkrans remain committed to making this new place where they’re thoroughly planted, “home.” They have found a dentist. They’re in the process of finding a doctor, and they found a new church home.

They also started cattle farming and have grown from three head of cows and a borrowed bull to over 20 head (which are all named) along with their own registered bulls. Ken scoffs at the term “hobby farming.” “This is the real deal,” he said. Cow manure, catch pens, and coyotes are a way of life for the Corkrans.

“We work our cows with a golf cart, a bucket of cubes, a border collie named “Lucy” and a house-trained schnauzer named “Sophie” that thinks she’s a cow dog. When calves reach the 180-day mark you pick up the phone and call U.P.S. to get them to the sale barn. Three days later the check is in the mail. OK. It’s not really U.P.S.,” he said, chuckling. “But it’s close.”

Taking care of the cattle, keeping up the equipment, haying and cutting the grass (which can take a couple of days) may not be the peaceful rural existence at the slow pace the Corkrans imagined.

But Ken and Karyn think what they have is even better. They have been on the property for six years. “We have a few aches and pains, but we declare that God is good. We have re-established our ministry, our purpose and our goals. We live a rewarding life directed by God, abundantly full of his many blessings,” Ken said.

For Ken and Karyn these include the view of a star-sprinkled night they never noticed in the city, the sound of the wind rippling through the pines, fishing at their own door step and watching eagles soar high overhead. At the end of the day they sit on their porch and discuss the day as they watch the sun go down on the house that they have made into their home.

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