In a world filled with strife and negativity, a visit to Roy and Deborah Thompson’s “Triple T Ranch” takes one back to a simpler time, when kids played cowboys and Indians, when families ate dinner together, when things like jobs, technology and crime didn’t intrude as much as they do today.
Turning off Old River Road North, just a short distance from the Ogeechee River and about two miles from the quaint town Rocky Ford, the first sign of whimsy is the old fire truck in the field.
Clownish in its paint design, the 1948 Ford fire truck likely has an interesting history, but the Thompsons aren’t familiar with its past. Roy Thompson just liked it when he answered an ad by a Beaufort, S.C. volunteer firefighter, and he brought it home.
That’s a familiar story as one meanders through cotton and peanut fields, a road lined with Spanish-moss covered oak trees, and past what appears to be an old Western town, all the way to the Thompson’s home.
If Thompson liked it, he either brought it home or duplicated it.
Driving past the homes of the Thompson “children,” Tyler and Jennifer, the thick scrub oak vegetation is unharmed, for the most part. A 1954 International, surrounded by a rail fence, seems to be a natural part of the scenery. Just a short distance away, visitors approach a simulated railroad crossing, complete with rails, crossing signs and a “putt putt” rail checker car.
Drivers know there is no train in the woods, yet when the lights begin flashing and the clanger activates, most slam on brakes and look both ways anyway.
That’s the effect Thompson wants.
The tracks and signs came from a retired railway employee, a friend named Ernie Hancock, he said. The railway checker car came from the Dover railway. The humor came from Thompson’s personality.
That explains the moonshine still just past the “Ogeechee River Service Station” with an antique gas pump; past the Ogeechee River Train Depot, and the Ogeechee River Livery Stable.
The still is made from “part of an old Sears washing machine, concrete blocks, and a real copper coil found on the property,” he said. “I erected it so folks could see what one might look like.” No, it is not operational, he said.
Drive a bit further and get a chuckle over the two-seater outhouse. The “ladies’ room” has a heart-shaped cutout while the “men’s room” has the traditional half-moon. It serves as the Thompson’s pump and well house.
Rails form corrals near the “livery stable” and provide parking for the facility, which can seat over 100 and is used for events such as picnics, meetings or social events.
When Thompson was building the “livery stable,” his grandson Stone, now almost 9, asked him about it. Thompson explained he was building something similar to the Pancake House at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds.
“He asked ‘Gedad, are you about through with the Waffle King?’” said Deborah Thompson, known as “Nana” by her grandchildren. The Thompsons have three - Stone, grandson Chance, 14, and granddaughter Hagins, 10.
The depot houses an antique car collection Thompson began at age 16 with his father. He stores equipment near the gas station. But the most charm can be found at the “Ogeechee River Diner,” a cozy house built next to Thompson’s home, constructed from materials taken from an old house on the property and a couple old barns.
Old metal advertisement signs grace the side of the diner. Antiques, including a working Coca Cola icebox, decorate the porch. The steps are wide and lead to double screen doors that are the exact replica of those found in years past at general stores or restaurants.
Step inside, and the past rises up to greet you like an old friend.
One corner hold shelves of old glass bottles, found on the property. Another corner invites cozy conversation with rustic seating, and black-and-white framed photos of Western heroes like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger fill a wall opposite one covered in Thompson’s childhood memorabilia - a pony saddle, cowboy gear and a genuine imitation pearl-handled six-gun just like the real cowboys used on TV.
“I’ve killed many an Indian with that gun,” Thompson told a group of visitors recently.
Fish and deer trophies - not to mention an elk’s head - are mounted high on the walls as well. Antiques are scattered everywhere - on the wall in the form of old telephones, in the bedrooms furnished with old-timey furniture, in the kitchen, where antique cooking equipment hang as if they had just been used.
The ceiling is lined with tin taken from the old house, and the roof is tin, so the rain brings a relaxing clatter when the clouds open up.
What do the Thompsons do with all this? They share.
If anyone needs a meeting facility, or just wants to enjoy the nature, they are welcome to use the facilities. They can put their boats in at the Thompson’s river landing. They can just come and enjoy the peace.
“The most enjoyment we have is seeing other people utilize what we have,” Thompson said.
“I’m just a firm believer in that you don’t get the full blessing out of things you have until you share them with someone else,” Deborah Thomson said.
“There’s nothing elaborate here,” he said. “It’s just unique and different. I don’t know where I’m going, but I know where I’ve been.”
“This is where it starts for all of us,” Deborah said.
Both of them claim to like the past and “I love atmosphere,” Thompson said.
That’s why their home echoes the spirit of the rest of the place - heart pine floors, walls and ceilings, antique photos of family, an antique pie safe filled with Deborah’s Santa Claus collection.
The Thompsons purchased the first tract of the 350-acres in 1988, then the second piece followed in 1990. Florene Aaron Daughtry sold them her father’s land and the Thompsons intend to keep it as it is - mostly woodlands.
They feed the deer, but allow no hunting. They watch the wildlife, including feral hogs, and Thompson even happened upon a panther once.
He used to hunt, but “now I’d rather just watch the deer,” he said.
They began building the home as a getaway cabin, but both fell in love “with the peacefulness,” Deborah said. The “cabin” became home.
The pond was built, and Thompson just started adding things because he liked it. “I would see something on an old Western movie and want to duplicate it,” he said.
He’s not finished. One day, “If I live long enough,” there will be Indian tee pees where children can camp out, a working cane grinding mill, and horseback trails so folk can enjoy the wildness of the property, he said.
And while preserving the past, the Thompsons main wish is to share the joys of the Triple T Ranch with others and hopefully allow them to experience the charm of the days gone by.
When they see folks wandering among the antiques or gazing at the water-wheel (which Roy and Chase built from drawings of the original water wheel at the Kiwanis fairgrounds), they thank God for the ability to share the magic.
“Regardless of what you see here, I’ve never forgotten where I started,” Thompson said.