Maine lobsterman Doug Goodale knew the storm was getting worse. He could tell by the churn of the water in Wells Harbor and the way the gulls screamed and flew in a panic of tight circles. Undaunted, and like he’d done hundreds of frigid mornings before, he boarded his 20-foot purple boat nicknamed "Barney" and negotiated the Atlantic’s 10-foot waves to make a living.
Because of the lousy weather, Doug was the only lobsterman on the water that September morning eight years ago. "I believe in hard work; it’s as simple as that," Doug says. "You get up early, you pay your dues, and you try to provide for your family. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them." Even face the roiling Atlantic.
Doug had 125 lobster traps, and he planned to pull as many as he could before the rain and wind forced him to abandon the job for the day. He never got past the first one. When he tugged in his first trap, he followed the steps he’d always taken by wrapping a trap line twice around the boat’s engine-powered winch. But his sleeve got caught, and the machine reeled in his arm, crushed it and flipped him overboard. For the next several minutes, Doug struggled for his life. He made it back onto his boat and, writhing in pain, somehow steered his craft across hellish waves to the harbor. Through it all, Doug remembered his family and how he simply wanted to get back to them.
Doug lost his arm in the accident, but he was back on the water in four days. Eight years is a long time to fish solo every day at dawn, let alone having a physical impairment. Making a decent living is nearly impossible, but Doug never stopped, never complained, never gave up hope.
The Door Knock
When Ty Pennington knocks on your door, good things are destined to happen, and the Goodale family experienced this first-hand one October morning when the cast from ABC’s "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" chose them as recipients of a new log home, the first the program has ever showcased.
Chaos ensued. "I’ve never seen my wife Becky jump so high," says Doug. "We were completely surprised." And then they were swept away. As is the show’s custom, ABC sent Doug and Becky and their daughters, Amanda, 14, and Tabatha, 10, on vacation where they were wined, dined and completely shut off from the world they know for seven days.
That’s when David Gordon and 1,100 volunteers got busy. David is the president of Oakfield, Maine-based Katahdin Cedar Log Homes, which had volunteered to build a 4,000-square-foot house for the Goodales. He knew he’d spend hundreds of hours planning the home, not to mention thousands of dollars in man-hours and materials to deliver a masterpiece. "I simply believe in community," says David, whose company’s philanthropic history has included everything from building dugouts for local Little Leagues to donating the first Habitat for Humanity log home. "Many of us become secure in our own worlds, and we don’t often break out of them to see what we’re capable of," David says. "Everyone associated with the project—whether they were employees or complete strangers—was ready to take on the challenge of his or her life."
Seven Days, Hundreds of Smiles
So how do you build a custom log home in less than a week? Simple: planning, design and a lot of help. David spent the four weeks leading up to the build phoning 1,000 people (plumbers, electricians, heating contractors and other specialists) and encouraging them to pitch in. More than 40 of the company’s dealers, from California to Florida, volunteered to give up a week of their lives, often without sleep, for the project. Barry Ivey, director of marketing and dealer development for Katahdin, estimates that the company’s design team spent 400 hours on the home’s construction documents alone. "We had very little margin of error," Barry says. "We had to get everything right and then see how fast we could get the home built."
Construction curveballs hit the volunteers early, including a septic field that needed to be completely relocated and a foundation that was excruciatingly slow to dry. But the volunteers were unfazed, and they worked around the clock to make extraordinary progress. "If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I never would have thought a log home of this caliber could be built this quickly," Barry says. "Still, what we did pales in comparison to what Doug has endured. He refused to give up, so how could we?"
There’s no script for complete jubilation. When a limo delivered Doug and his family to their new home and a crowd of thousands demanded a driver to "move that bus," one reality melted away and another one stood before them. "When I saw that they’d built a log home for us, I doubled over," says Becky, who works as a full-time caregiver for an elderly neighbor. "Amanda reminded me later that, when she was a little girl, I told her that my dream was to own a log home with a loft. Seeing it in front of me left me speechless." And she hadn’t even taken the grand tour.
The great room, graced with a log truss and a signature hearth, invites hours of family time. "It’s a big space, but it doesn’t feel that way, especially with the leather-furniture groupings and warm colors," Becky says. So far, however, the family has gravitated toward the spacious kitchen and its granite-topped island for everything from homework to meal preparation. "I can’t believe that I have a dishwasher!" says Becky, who also loves the room’s stainless steel appliances and ceramic-tile flooring in shades mimicking the rocks along Maine’s coastline.
Upstairs, a loft, complete with nautical theme, has become a sanctuary. "It’s so cozy up there," Doug says. "At first, I had a hard time adjusting to the rest of the house—it was too nice. But the loft was the place I could go to collect my thoughts."
Doug and Becky’s bedroom is yet another getaway. "The bathroom is so amazing that my daughters even try to slip in and use it," Becky says with a laugh. "Doug loves the balcony off the bedroom, where he can sit, drink coffee and view the woods behind us. It makes us feel as though we’re in an alpine lodge."
Doug wondered if his words of thanks would be enough to show his appreciation to Katahdin, hundreds of suppliers and the community. The couple wrote an open letter to the local paper, and they’ve talked several times with David Gordon. "But how can you ever repay them?" he says.
Says David, "Doug needn’t worry. The people who worked on this house benefited emotionally and spiritually from the experience. It’s the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done, and no one will ever forget it."
After the fanfare quieted, Doug and Becky settled back into what defines them: family. "Our girls never let all of the hoopla go to their heads; they’re pretty grounded," Doug says. "We all know that what’s most important in life is what we had before any of this happened. We had each other."
Read the full story in the March 2006 issue of Log Home Living.
Photo by Jose Azel