Carol and Dale Rodgers and their son, Bryan, enjoy their new home that has a more open floor plan and which allows them to entertain more often. One can also see the collection of beads around Bryan's neck that ultimately helped save him from the fire that took the family’s former home.  Photo by Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy/Bluff Country Newspaper Group
Carol and Dale Rodgers and their son, Bryan, enjoy their new home that has a more open floor plan and which allows them to entertain more often. One can also see the collection of beads around Bryan's neck that ultimately helped save him from the fire that took the family’s former home. Photo by Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy/Bluff Country Newspaper Group
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Dale and Carol Rodgers of Chatfield are so thankful for the "yep" and the beads that ultimately saved their son's life.

Their son, Bryan, 27, typically wears at least 15 strings of beads each day, a habit his parents had tried to limit to just 15, but "Bry-guy" likes his bling.

"Complete strangers ask him where he got his beads. They ask him if he went to Mardi Gras, and he always says 'Yep' even though he's never been to Mardi Gras," Carol said.

And the blessing is in the numerous strings, as Bryan, who has Down Syndrome, is still here to say, "Yep."

"I was in the bathroom, and I came out when I realized what was happening," said his mother, who was rather indisposed at the time that the smoke alarms sounded in the family's vintage farmhouse east of Chatfield in June 2011. "I heard the door to the kitchen shut, and I called for Bryan, and that's when it hit me that he'd gone upstairs from the kitchen to hide in his room."

She couldn't reach him, however, since the staircase was not close enough to the kitchen door, so she went out that door to the highway, where she attempted to flag down a passerby for help. Nobody stopped.

Carol had to rip away the dog fence that surrounded the front door in order to return to the kitchen to find Bryan.

"I got upstairs, groped around and heard his beads, and I grabbed him," she recalled. "We went downstairs and sat on the front steps as the house was burning."

Two of their four dogs survived because they were outside in the dog yard, but the Rodgers' two cats and the other two dogs perished in the fire.

"I wondered afterwards how come I didn't get the dogs out, but I was looking for Bryan. I can't imagine not having him here," Carol added.

The Chatfield Volunteer Fire Department used the remains of the old farmhouse for a practice burn, sharing the opportunity to learn with the Fountain department, clearing the way for a new home.

The work of establishing replacement items for those lost in the fire is still ongoing, and the family - with all five of their children grown, but two of them living at home - rented a small house in Chatfield for the rest of the summer, making do with furniture bought at thrift stores and traveling the inconvenient four miles out of town to Dale's parents' dairy farm to work while they awaited the construction of their new home.

Carol acknowledged the generosity and graciousness of her coworkers at Mayo, who knew that she was frazzled, tired and not ready to deal with such matters.

"They would send food every day or so after the fire, even after I went back to work because they knew I was tired. They raised a lot of money for us," she added.

The Rodgers family could have built a traditional stick-built home on the farmstead, but they needed to return sooner than later in order to get back to as normal a life as possible.

"We just wanted to get back out here," Carol commented. "That's why we started looking at manufactured homes. And actually, when we first were looking at houses at Homes of Harmony, we decided we wanted a basement. But we wanted a garage, too, and we couldn't afford both a garage and a basement, so this was the very last house we looked at. Our daughter, Cassie, was home with us for a while, and when we all walked in, we said 'This is what we want.'"

The old house was, as Carol described it, "small and scrunched," rather cramped and not meant for a family of seven, but their children grew up there, sharing rooms, arguments, fun and futures.

Carol likes her new home "well enough," though she admits that she has days when she's not exactly entirely enamored of it because moving into it wasn't a choice she made - it was simply a necessity, one that involved the sacrifice of years of photographs, personal belongings and four of their pets.

However, the family has been able to settle more readily there because it has an open floor plan laid out to accommodate a busy family of three with two basset hounds and a papillon.

Carol especially appreciates that the house has two bathrooms instead of one, a dining room with a deck, an open kitchen, a laundry and mudroom at the garage entrance, plenty of storage, a large master bedroom with space for a king-size bed instead of the shoehorned queen-size bed they had in their old bedroom - "with about three inches of room on either side."

The new house also has a larger bedroom for Bryan, and a spare bedroom since their son, Phillip, didn't move back to the farmstead with the family, instead deciding to stay in town with a friend.

"Dale was here when they were moving the house in, and I got here when they were putting it together. It was absolutely exciting to see the siding put up and the walls going together," Carol remembered.

Dale enjoys the new house too. He said, "There's more room, we sleep better, and it's more comfortable, especially in the summer with central air, because in the old house, we always had at least three window air conditioners running."

He observed that after living in the old house for most of his life, it is a little different, but he's adjusted quite well.

His wife stated she's still learning to appreciate the house itself, she's definitely come to appreciate what it has done for the entire family. She said they have more room to entertain, so they do entertain more often.

"Our other house was too cramped to entertain," she said. "When the kids were little, we had their birthday parties there, but there wasn't much room. I'd never had room for holidays - there were too many people and not enough room. Here, it's not like there's a tremendous amount of room, but we have options."

She said the first meal her family ate in the new house was shared with friends. "I hadn't done any grocery shopping, but some friends called and brought supper. We had a wonderful time," Carol added.

Since then, they've celebrated Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, the extended family Christmas and Bryan's birthday, spreading cheer from the kitchen to the living room and back again without having to turn corners or share news through walls.

"I like that about this house," Carol concluded.

And Bryan loves his new room because, he said, "It has a closet with room for lots of hangers...my own room." He can play music on his radio and rearrange his can koozie and bead collections, keeping an eye on the living room so his mom and dad don't get into trouble while watching television on a quiet spring evening.

Yep. There are many blessings in those beads.